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Bloggers are special. We are admired for our perseverance, and we are belittled for our idealism. But we also attract envy and resentment, particularly from colleagues. Here are some of the allegations I am confronted with as a blogger time and again.
“It’s easy for you to talk!”
When people ask me why I am a blogger, I often encounter a lot of mistrust. “Yeah, you! You can easily write a blog without anyone paying you, you’re having yourself pampered by the ARD (German public TV network, its institutional set-up was modelled after the BBC)!” This is a quote from a broadcast discussion with my esteemed colleague from that network, Dennis Horn.
By getting pampered my colleague meant that in three weeks every month I host the nighttime news on BR or on WDR, two local ARD stations. I spend the rest of my time travelling, meeting interesting people and blogging about it.
So I get reproached, if indirectly, that I can only afford my blogging because I have a good job. The funny thing is I even felt guilty about that for quite some time. Today I ask myself: Why should I? Because I work day and night!? Since I was 16, there hasn’t been a single phase in my life when I didn’t work. I worked in warehouses, at cash registers, in kitchens and in restaurants, I delivered newspapers, I was a radio DJ and a TV host. Early shifts, late shifts, weekends and holidays – it didn’t make a difference to me.
My blog would probably have never existed if it hadn’t been for good old BR.
It’s been 14 years now that I present the late news at BR, every night just before midnight. Any attempt to get a more normal time slot, if only as a fill-in, was nixed. I have to admit that it did irritate me at times to be sidelined that way. And believe me I did try to change it. Today I’m almost grateful to the station that they are leaving me alone during the day. My blog would probably have never existed if it hadn’t been for good old BR.
But I still get belittled for my blogging. In my spare time! Without making any money! It took a while until I realized that this isn’t really about me, but mostly about the critics themselves. By attacking me and my blogging lifestyle they are trying to justify their own lethargy. It’s always easier to criticize others than questioning one’s own routines.
“You’re only after the attention!”
Another reproach I often hear is: “You’re only doing this to get attention!” (… as if it had taken brute force to make me line up for an iPad!) Of course I thrive on attention, just like any other media professional in the digital age. The only difference is that I don’t have a PR department, nor a media planning office, and no dedicated social media manager. There is only me and my blog that’s running on open-source software and that I write on my own time.
Curiosity – isn’t that why we all became journalists?
It’s interesting that these allegations of self-aggrandizing mostly come from colleagues, i.e. other journalists – never from readers, listeners or viewers. Is it really that crazy to believe me when I say that it is curiosity and the joy of stories that are driving me? That I really wanted to know why there was a revolution in Egypt all of a sudden, and not how many clicks I got when I blogged from Tahrir Square?
It is strange that I have to keep justifying myself for what I do. Didn’t we all become journalists for just those moments? Sometimes I ask myself what is going on in a colleague’s mind when they don’t even consider such a possibility. At what point in their career did they lose their curiosity and the ants in their pants – and why?
“Blogging isn’t Journalism!”
It is one of the most-often-heard phrases at journalists’ conferences: Blogging isn’t journalism. I think that’s rubbish. Of course not every blog nor every blog post is a marvel of journalistic achievement. But to think on the other hand that the definition of journalism is that something appeared in print or was broadcast by some station or other, is even dumber.
First-hand reporting has always been the pinnacle of journalism – even when written subjectively, from the reporter’s point of view. Is subjectivity bad per se? Or putting it in a different way: what is more “journalistic”, a blogger who makes his subjective opinion transparent – or the allegedly neutral journalists who don’t tell their audience that they are card-carrying members of a party or that they are part of some informal political network?
“Nobody can make a living from Blogging!”
And here’s getting rid of the last prejudice: You can’t make a living from blogging. That’s right. But who said that this is what we wanted anyway?
Thinking about money is often the only hindrance on the way to a successful blog.
Blogging is not a profession. Blogging is a way of life. You don’t blog in order to get rich. To the contrary: a lot of the money I make with my classic work goes into my blog. Why? Because that gives me the freedom to report about whatever I want, whenever I want – issues, places and people that interest me and that often are neglected in the news of the day.
It is a pleasant side-effect that this basic attitude has generated paid commissions on occasion, but it has never been the intention. Money often is an obstacle. If you constantly think of money, you lose the quintessence of blogging: Passion and authenticity. Or as the great Sascha Pallenberg over at Mobile Geeks has put it:
“Monetizing your blog is the last thing you should have on your mind. That’s your only chance to have fun, find readers and so get relevant, and so get potential sponsors’ interest, and then maybe make money with your blog.”
If you don’t understand that, you will never understand bloggers.