There Goes My Craft

I’m not really sure how it came to be, but I have a ridiculous amount of friends who either are, or have been, reporters, broadcasters, editors, and magazine contributors. As time has gone by I’ve watched them grow in their careers. They’ve moved towns and cities, networks and publications. Some have moved from politics to foreign affairs, others from local newspapers to boutique magazines. Those who no longer wanted to be part of the scrum, moved into the public service to see things from another perspective. No matter what, they all have something in common. They love a good story.

So you can imagine when I began blogging, I was a little terrified to “share” anything with a few of my Walkley nominated friends. I knew I was making embarrassing grammatical errors. I knew the story I’d written didn’t always follow the correct structure. Okay, so there wasn’t any structure at all. I knew that once it was out there – it was OUT there. Fodder for years to come, endless laughs at Christmas drinks, look at Kirsty over there, their and they’re.

I can never adequately explain why I continue to blog. Yes, I believe I’ve become a better story teller, but even when the evidence of a growing audience hits my inbox each morning, my self doubt continues to sit uncomfortably on my shoulder. Was that a run on sentence? I dream of having an editor to catch the mistakes before I push the publish button. Why is it always three days AFTER writing the post that was shared 4,000 times, that we discover that we wrote isle instead of aisle?

What do I call myself? A blogger? A storyteller? A writer?

Any of those will do, but no, I would never think of myself as a journalist. It’s not only that I don’t have the skills nor the inclination, I don’t report or gather news.

I’ve referred to Mrs Woog often on this blog, and here I go again. Yesterday Mrs Woog posted a link regarding a conversation on twitter. The post was titled Bloggers v. Journalists v. Writers. A gossip columnist referred to his “craft” being under threat. I agree, if you’re a gossip columnist your craft probably is under threat. There’s plenty of people that can gossip, and plenty of gossip to be found. Good luck with that.

However, if you are a good journalist – your craft is possibly safer than ever.

What makes a good journalist? A good journalist can live and report from the same small community for twenty years while maintaining both integrity and respect. A good journalist will tell a story that no-one else had considered. A good journalist will make sense of the annual report, the share price and the percentage drop in sales. A good journalist will make you raise an eyebrow, or snort out loud on public transport. A good journalist will report the news with a talent the rest of us could only dream of.

I heartily consume the words of Annabel Crabb and sigh at the eloquence of her writing. I head straight to my dictionary after a dose of Helen Razor, marveling at her ever expansive lexical range. I cried when I read Sally Sara’s final words from Afghanistan. I dream of one day writing with the apparent ease of Angela Mollard on The Punch. If Joe Hildebrand writes it, I’ll read it. If Mark Colvin tweets it, I’ll look at it. And it doesn’t stop there. There’s a counterpart to each of the above in the US, and the UK, in fact, all over the world. My recent iPad purchase has meant that I can now carry newspapers everywhere I go. And I do. I’ve spent more money subscribing to newspapers in the past year, than I think I would have in the four years previous.

Which brings me back to the question of why do I write? When I now have access to such incredible talent, why do I continue to write on my own blog. When I began blogging, amongst my mother and five or six other readers, there were a few that sent an occasional private email. “I really enjoyed that one” said a friend who had worked as a journalist in both television and print. “Have you thought about writing a book?” said another who’d written a book herself. “I love your stories, please don’t stop writing” said a mate who’d edited newspapers for years. When the email came from the publishing house, the first sentence said it all “*insert journalist friend here*….suggested we have a look at your blog, and we love it.”

My guess is a good journalist feels so comfortable with their craft, they’re happy to encourage and support those who aspire to write, in whatever form it may take. My guess is a good journalist may not refer to their work as “their craft”.

Yes, the world of social media has changed the way we communicate, but the fundamental skills are still the same. If you’re any good, people will read your work. What’s different now, is if they like it, they’ll then share it immediately with everyone they know. If they don’t? I can’t help you there. I’m not a journalist.

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  1. I found it hard to get past the sheer irony of a gossip columnist thinking that the rise of bloggers meant their days were numbered! Oh the entitlement.

    But as always, you have nailed it Kirsty:

    “My guess is a good journalist feels so comfortable with their craft, they’re happy to encourage and support those who aspire to write, in whatever form it may take.”

    Absolutely perfect!

  2. I’ll be honest. I don’t read many blogs anymore. I find most of them vacuous and inane. I do keep coming back to yours though and, regardless of how well pointed your point was here, I think this post was really well written.

    I’m off to decoupage some ballet flats.

  3. Great article.Totally agree.As for wishing you had an editor before you press publish,I find in general no one cares about spelling or if the sentence is written in the right form etc.We just care about the story and enjoy the sharing with the blogger.The spelling police annoy me because what does it really matter as we know what the blogger means.No need to nit pick on the writer as I have seen done at times.I dont care whether the blogger has formal training or not I just love to read a good story I can relate to and love that I am invited to comment aswell.Thankyou for sharing this great post xx

  4. Perfect timing. I’ve been struggling with a book I’ve been commissioned to write. I’m not a writer, but a very specialised expert in a weird niche area. So no-one else could really write the book, but I have such doubts about my writing! I’ve taken the advice of a real writer: just write everyday, whether you feel like it or not.
    And this morning, I was a bit beaten up by my client about my progress. So I needed this to continue my path. I’m not a real writer, but what the hell, I’ve got a book to write and I’m going to write it!!

  5. Why write? Why breathe? There is an innate need to tell our stories, to share them. It’s about being human.

  6. Beautiful last para especially. After years of writing academic stuff, I started blogging just to tell stories of childhood to my family before I go, and keep them in touch with how I am.

    I realise I am a blogger, not a journo, because a journo does indeed have a craft that I never learned, and restrictions I don’t have, and there are some excellent journos – who invariably make good bloggers as well.

    Just write. If you have the raw talent, that’s basically all you need. It will find its place.


  7. I hate that there is a division. I just simply want to write and blogging allows me that chance.

    God knows I am small fry and I will never steal readers away from the traditional realms, but at the same time I think writing a blog should not be so disparaged by those in that trade.

    Love this post x

  8. Excellent post – very well said. Indeed blogging, journalism and gossip columning are three very different crafts!

  9. I can’t write to save my life, no discipline. But tell me I’ve got 25 chars for a header and it must contain ‘x’ and I should be able to deliver. Who would have thought a love of bad puns and sport could help pay the rent?

    But enough about me, on to you, Joe Hildebrand really??? He’s so smug, so up himself, and really really conservative. And that’s just in person.

    He does have a nice way with a semi-colon though I suppose…

  10. The best thing I have read on this debate. Congrats.

  11. Love this! I was a journo and never once said I had a craft – I would have been shot down by a COS (chief of staff) for being up myself.

  12. I have nowhere near the audience or success as you, but your feelings (written so eloquently) are mine as well. I struggle to earn a penny as a freelance ‘writer’ and, as a non-qualified journo who wrote for The Age for three years, I still wonder if that large shepherd’s crook will emerge from stage left and yank me off as a big fat fake.

    Still, my blog has been going since 2007 and makes me happy. It’s become a little less regular these days, but has given me a lot of opportunities I’d never have had otherwise.

    Finally – if you write the book, I’ll buy it.

  13. Suburban Correspondent has it exactly right. Some people just have to write, trained or not. And some of them are even good. The dividing line is what you said: If you are good, people will read your work – and share it. I think we know when we read a good thing. And if we want to read more. I don’t ever want to miss one of yours.

  14. I’m so glad that someone outside the realm of ‘fashion blogging’ has addressed this. I am a 19 year old girl who started blogging because I A) Love to write. B) Love photography and C) Love fashion. I’ve continued to do it for over a year now because I have found an audience that has responded to my ‘work’ and I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve had some amazing opportunities come up because of it.
    I really tried not to take Andrew Hornery’s article to heart claiming us bloggers were basically all ‘wanabees’. But I guess it’s hard to not take it personally when someone is insulting something you love so much and as such basically insulting you personally.

    I think the point you made about “My guess is a good journalist feels so comfortable with their craft, they’re happy to encourage and support those who aspire to write, in whatever form it may take.’ is spot on. I wish this whole Blogger VS Journalist argument would be over and everyone could except that there is room for both, and if journalists are going to continue flinging mud they’re only damaging their own credibility and forcing people to read blogs more and more.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling, my point was thank you for taking the time to write this. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  15. Anonymous says

    you’re good, people will read your work

  16. A lot of bloggers seem to be asking themselves why they do it at the moment. Many like me just feel compelled to write, but love the feedback you get when you press publish, so different to writing a diary and definitely more addictive! As with most things I think there’s room for everyone! and your life is so interesting that you will always have good stories to tell x

  17. You’re a wonderful story teller, and one of the few bloggers I read regularly because you continue to tell bloody good stories.

  18. You are my desire , I have few weblogs and hardly ever run out from to

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