The craft of writing and our community

This post is written collaboratively by Jane Flanagan and Hila Shachar about something that is close to our hearts: Writing for independent magazines and blogs. The post developed out of conversations we’ve been having privately. It got to a point where it felt hypocritical to talk about these things ‘behind the scenes’, rather than publicly on our blogs. We think this topic is ultimately bigger than the both of us.

Established and successful media brands receive their fair share of criticism, much of it well-deserved. However, blogs and indie magazines (supported and created by bloggers) feel like a ‘no go’ zone for even the most constructive criticism. The (erroneous) underlying premise seems to be that we must not criticise our own community. We’ve seen the blog-world unite to defend artists against alleged Anthropologie rip-offs, for example, but nary a bad word said about something created within our community. It’s a laudable sense of loyalty, but it is also misplaced.

As writers, we both know the value of constructive criticism and critical feedback. Quite simply, the publishing world doesn’t exist without it, and it’s a marker of content quality. We both believe that output from the blog community (both online and in print) is deteriorating in part because there isn’t much constructive criticism. Much feedback is a fast reaction to the visual impact, rather than a slower, more studied reaction to the complete offering; the combination of words, images and presentation.

Because there’s no real way to voice constructive criticism without it sounding like a betrayal from within, these conversations are driven behind closed doors (real or virtual). And we both worry that this will have a long-term damaging effect on the community. If we can’t kindly and constructively voice our criticism, we’ll become jaded and ultimately abandon things that we believe could be worked on and improved if feedback could be voiced and incorporated. And that’s a sad option.

We’ve noticed two responses to those who attempt to constructively criticize:

(1) If you don’t like it, don’t buy it (or ‘unfollow’)

Well, yes: if you consistently don’t like something, you should unfollow or not support it. But, when we disagree with real-life friends, we don’t walk away from them. The idea that support is an all-or-nothing proposition is troubling and immature, promoting the most fanatical kind of support. This recent post on A Cup of Jo and the responses on both sides show how polarised criticism can become, even when it’s a justified qualm about editorial content and integrity.

We should be able to register criticism and argument without being deemed unsupportive. One of us, for example, has purchased every issue of Kinfolk magazine to date. And we both admire the aesthetic, the premise and the hard work that goes into such a magazine. But we also have serious problems with the quality of the writing, and the way the publication deals with professional writers. Ironically, we’ve both found bigger magazines more receptive to pitches and commissioning professional writers than indie magazines. Saying all this is not a betrayal of indie magazines or the people who work behind them. The fact that we want to raise this issue shows that we believe and care about the endeavour of independent blogs and publications.

(2) It’s small and independent, you should support it!

This is misguided, if admirable, thinking. The rules for conduct and professionalism shouldn’t differ because a business is small, or a magazine is independent. If you would criticise businesses such as Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Condé Nast, et al, for some practice or execution, you should hold yourself accountable to the same standards. This applies to advertising, sourcing contributors, promotion and - particularly in the case of this post - editorial quality and integrity.

The main problem we both see with certain blogs and independent publications is precisely a lack of knowledge and professionalism. There have long been editorial standards followed by journalists and publications (and it’s on the basis of a breach of those standards that they are often critiqued). But independent publications make up their own rules of submission, publication, and advertising guidelines. This can be liberating in many ways, helping a publication innovate and ‘stand apart’, but its flip side is often unprofessionalism. We find this particularly true with regard to sourcing quality content, allowing diversity and handling submission processes.

We get the sense that some indie magazines are run like blogging cliques, which undermines their creativity, hard work and loftier ideals. Editing a magazine properly is neither a hobby nor an exercise in nepotism – you either invest a certain level of professionalism into it, or not. It’s also not about running a high school clique of the ‘cool kids’. If indie magazines really want to provide serious counter publications to the mainstream, they must be willing to cultivate a professional attitude towards content acquisition and quality.

Blogs got going, in no small part, as a result of dissatisfaction with mainstream, traditional media. But now blog and indie publication content often has significantly less editorial integrity, with content often sourced from a limited pool of popular contributors, many of whom have little interest in writing as a profession or an art. Fair enough, some people’s talent lies in photography, illustration, design and style. And both of us admire (and frequently gasp over) their obvious talent. But the writing does count for something too, and it’s disappointing that equal energy is not devoted to it in such publications and that serious writers are turned away and discouraged.

If photographers don’t like their work being devalued and uncredited online, writers don’t like constantly playing second fiddle to visual content. Turning away writers who publish and successfully practice their art in favour of bloggers who confess to not even like writing is insulting. And it makes us feel jaded about the role we can play in both the creation and consumption of this content, much as we might admire and support the underlying philosophy.

Ultimately, we’re raising this topic because we both care passionately about independent creative work and outlets. We’re both struggling because this community we once felt part of feels increasingly like a place with little respect for the craft of writing, and that’s an alienating feeling. And if we’re feeling it, we imagine others are too, both as writers and readers. We want indie magazines and blogs to be taken seriously, and to be the best, because we have faith in them. We care as both writers and readers/consumers. And we hope you care enough to read this post with an open mind.

104 comments:

  1. Thank you! I love this so much. I've been feeling this way for the longest time and I'm so glad I'm not alone. Constructive criticism and "asking questions" are such important parts of development and growth, and somewhere along the line they became conflated with "trolling", which is very sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Samantha! Yes - I think you hit the nail on the head... criticism is not the same as trolling.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for this post. It's something I ponder quite a bit, as I see writing well somehow become something that is thought of as not important or even 'elitist.' Drives me crazy and I've written about it before on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Claudia. I'm glad people feel similarly and I will read the post on your blog too!

      Delete
  3. Brilliant post. I'm not a blogger. I publish in academia (in a tiny niche field), and I frequently wonder why there's a total lack of critique for blogs that are viewed by thousands daily and my papers have to be vetted for months by experts in my field and constantly revised before publication when they're probably read by only four or five peers when the journals are published. I hope bloggers everywhere read this post and open up some dialogue on this issue!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I agree but doubt the post will reach anybody other than those who already agree, sad as that makes me.

      Delete
    2. Hi Anon: I work and publish in academia too, so I know exactly what you mean. I've been dumbfounded at being turned away from indie publications on the basis of them only working with popular bloggers (and being told this upfront), rather than judging a written submission on its merit. And I know I'm not the only one. If a publication has an underlying philosophy of quality (and makes money off of it), this should apply to the writing as well, not just the visuals. That's part of the reason we have 'blind', anonymous reading of our work in academic journals - so there's no nepotism, no popularity contest, just an evaluation of the actual content itself. I too think there needs to be more honest dialogue about this, otherwise writers will become jaded by this community, including myself.

      Delete
  4. Very well stated. I for one and fed up with the blogging cliques. I shake my head when new "collaborations" are announced to find out it's the same group of blogs time and time again. It's the same in published magazines. I was getting fed up with Canadian House and Home for a while because it might as well have said "featuring Sarah Richardson" she was featured so many times. I am also fed up with buying decor books, only to find that I have already seen every single home on a blog already.

    I've just been engaged in a lively discussion on gay marriage on a blog, and the consensus did seem to be "if you don;t like it, don;t follow, which like you say is ridiculous. Can;t you imagine a world where we simply didn't read what we didn't agree with. I've also noticed the fear of having a voice on a controversial topic. You can get 130 responses when you paint a "chippy white dresser" and 2 when you bring up gun control or gay rights.

    As I like to say "Life is not all pink and fluffy" so get engaged with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do think the "if you don't like it, don't buy it" response is dangerous. It means writers only see fanatical support and readers who support, but have reservations are never heard. I mean that may not matter too much when it's just a post about a cushion or something, but on the kinds of issues you mentioned and with regard to rules of conduct, professionalism and even legality on the blog world, I think those discussions need to happen in plain view.

      Delete
  5. Well said, Jane and Hila. Thank you for putting this issue out there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love this. It is easy to be a reader and choose my favorites, it's nice to walk away from those blogs that become shallow- or mosey toward them if I feel like being shallow. Certain blogs really feed me and on the opposite side the clique that you mention is so obvious at times.. and not inviting even to read. I appreciate your writing, your voice and the temperament of your blog. Ultimately, I think the best blog wins, but also, there are so many different voices of blogs and different types of audiences. Can't we just be a (nice, open, kind) clique of our own, devoted readers and solid writers? Your kindness and integrity is felt, I wouldn't think of dropping a blog like yours quickly or carelessly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gia. It makes me very happy you enjoy my blog. And I agree with you wholeheartedly.

      I agree there's room for all and we're not arguing that every blog needs to be a literary or reflective one. But where the written word is part of the equation, we believe it should be handled professionally and with as much respect as the visuals. Let us not forget a lot of this content is not a hobby - Cup of Jo is a career blogger, Kinfolk is a $21 magazine. Standards of editorial integrity and professionalism should be a given.

      Delete
    2. I still think blogs are an aspect of freedom of speech, and that's part of what is so cool about them. I think people should be able to express themselves even if their content/language isn't the best. The people blogging as a career have chosen to do that, that doesn't mean others shouldn't be able to do what they want with their blog. I don't think we should be hating on the blogs that aren't up to our personal standards, just don't read them.

      Delete
    3. Thanks Gia.

      I don't think either Hila or I are "hating" on any blogs. And our standards are not personal, but professional. I agree with you that we should differentiate the hobbyist blogger from the professional blogger. But there are laws guiding basic editorial principles (e.g. non disclosure of freebies) and they apply to all, whether you're blogging part-time or making a career of it.

      Freedom of speech is not something I take issue with and we're far from advocating that there should be a fixed standard of writing adhered to in all blogs, merely that those that are "media outlets" adhere to the standards orf their industry, whether they're online or in print.

      Delete
    4. Great point above. Thanks Jane.

      Because we're out in the public AND asking for a premium cover price, readers should expect that we step up our game to ensure that we're producing quality that reflects the price - both the words and images. As we (and other new publications) move from a blogs/websites to a more professional publishing arena we're held accountable to a higher standard, whether we like it or not, and any inexperience or ignorance on our part isn't really an exception.

      Delete
    5. Thank you, Nathan, for reading so openly and taking the time to respond here. Hila and I are both encouraged that you took the time to process what we have written and to understand that it was not intended as some mud-slinging exercise, which of course was our deep fear writing this post.

      Yours is a publication we both admire in many ways, and any critical thoughts we raise here come from a place of wanting it to be everything we hoped it would be from the outset.

      I really appreciate your openness and desire to address some of these issues as they might pertain to your business. And I wish you future success in evolving Kinfolk in that direction!

      Delete
  7. Thank you both for this post! This quote in particular rang true:

    "The main problem we both see with certain blogs and independent publications is precisely a lack of knowledge and professionalism. There have long been editorial standards followed by journalists and publications (and it’s on the basis of a breach of those standards that they are often critiqued). But independent publications make up their own rules of submission, publication, and advertising guidelines. This can be liberating in many ways, helping a publication innovate and ‘stand apart’, but its flip side is often unprofessionalism. We find this particularly true with regard to sourcing quality content, allowing diversity and handling submission processes."

    I'm a professional journalist by trade--a digital editor for a city magazine, actually--and this paragraph is just spot on. I could not have said it better myself and I thank you both for doing so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Megan - I work as a journalist too and I frequently roll my eyes at things bloggers do that media wouldn't and couldn't get away with.

      Delete
  8. personally, i don't like the "if you don't like then don't read it mentality". nothing ever changes that way. plus, in my book silence is always permission. people have the right and responsibility to bring concerns out in the open.
    thanks for your post. gave me much food for thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Keishua. I agree. I think staying silent or having those conversations behind closed doors is ultimately doing a disservice to blogging. I've been on the fence about whether to keep blogging of late as I feel increasingly critical of and alienated from the dominant voice of the "community". Regardless of what I decide, I'm glad to have put this out there, with Hila who I've confided in about these thoughts.

      Delete
  9. Thank you for linking to the Cup of Joe debate. I would not have known about this very intense blogging discussion until you highlighted it. It was interesting to read the comments “for” and “against” her re-posting, and it was very fascinating to read Joanna’s response (though not very believable...). Jane, how do you find out about these exciting debates that spring up on a blogs’ comments section? It was a good dialog to read, and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves to read blogs. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Angela - Hila was the one who pointed out the Cup of Jo post to me. I'm frequently "out of the loop" on these things, but often learn about them through Twitter!

      Thanks

      Jane

      Delete
  10. This is really interesting, Jane (and Hila!).

    I have to admit that I haven't spent much time thinking about it, which seems lazy. I tend to see the blogs I read on a personal level, which I evaluate differently than professional publications. I haven't considered what standards I expect bloggers to adhere to (honesty would be the most basic one, but I expect that of everyone, regardless of medium) or how I view the community as a whole.

    I do agree that constructive criticism is a good thing and we don't see much of it. I think commenters are afraid of being seen as trolls and many bloggers are incredibly sensitive about being criticized, so we're more likely to just move away instead of thoughtfully commenting.

    Blogs are a strange intersection of personal and public, and the rules get blurry. Do we treat them like people or like publications?

    I'll be thinking about it more now that you've brought it up, but I'm still not sure where I stand on it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rachel -

      In the case of this post, Hila and I are including indie print publications in our comments. It's difficult to draw hard lines, but I think when somebody's career is blogging and they earn an income off of it, even employing staff, they should hold themselves and their business to professional standards. Similarly, when a magazine costs $21, that price-tag should be indicative of a certain quality of content and conduct.

      Legally, all bloggers are bound to certain rules (e.g. not blogging about undisclosed freebies in the US). But I see those rules frequently broken. There are, of course, lots of blogs that are wholly personal and small-scale hobbies. But I still believe editorial integrity (and like you said, sometimes that's just about honesty) should be a tenet guiding all content creation, regardless of scale and income.

      Thanks!

      Jane

      Delete
    2. I found this blog from someone that linked to this post, and I just have to say this is one of the best posts I've read in a very, very long time. As a writer myself (or an "aspiring" one, really), I have to admit that I get a little discouraged by the lack of appreciation for good, quality writing in the blogging world. The lack of standards is a little appalling, really, especially considering that blogging by nature IS about writing.

      I would love to freelance for indie magazines, because yes, I dislike many things about the mainstream, which is why I turn to small businesses, blogs, etc. But like you, I feel that it is all a popularity contest rather than about exposing the world to quality material when it comes to writing. That's very upsetting to someone that wants to write for a living.

      Delete
    3. Thanks Hannah Debbie. The popularity contest aspect of blogging feels very juvenile to me, as does the celebrification of "regular" lives. I feel like content is coming second to ego a lot and I think the community is doing itself and would-be a participants a disservice in setting that tone.

      The interesting thing is this approach is so at odds with the underlying premise of social media, which is relatable, accessible content.

      Delete
  11. Like many people, I have wanted to be a writer for quite a long time, and I thought blogging would help me towards that end. However, the opposite has happened, and I feel that blogging has caused me to become a more careless writer and editor, which makes me sad. But realizing it also makes me work harder. That being said, thank you for writing this post. I think the message is so important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Hannah.

      I think the practice of blogging has been good for my writing and I only hold myself accountable for the quality of my own writing. However, I don't always think the blog audience cares about writing in the same league as they do about visuals and it is discouraging as a writer to have that content skipped over in favour of the pretty pictures. That said, my own readers seem to take the time to read and I am deeply appreciative of that.

      Delete
    2. Oh, you're totally right! I fully take responsibility for my own writing--I just meant I've gradually started writing posts quickly and moving on, but I really didn't mean to sound like I was blaming anyone. I'm not! I seriously love the blogging community. I realized later that my comment here may not have sounded so nice. I only meant to say that putting adequate time and thought into my writing is something I need to be careful about. And I agree about the visuals. I spend more time editing photos than writing posts and that's something that has been bothering me lately. Thanks for your kind reply!

      Delete
    3. Thanks Hannah - we completely agree and I didn't at all think your comment was "not nice"!

      Sometimes, I'm in a very visual mood and I have little to say, so my blog often represents both the wordy and the wordless. I don't think all blogs or blog posts necessarily need be written. Many bloggers aren't writers at all and have beautiful blogs that I wholeheartedly follow.

      But when a blogger takes the time to write something and craft my words carefully, I wish that that elicited the same reaction, or the same attention. And I wish that same respect and love of words was a feature of the community as the love of visuals is.

      I know you weren't suggesting this, but I want to be clear and say: This isn't about pictures versus words. I love when one complements the other. I love magazines and books full of imagery with beautiful words alongside. It's when one plays second fiddle to the other that I become disillusioned. I think the quality should be consistent across both words and images... they should harmoniously create a coherent aesthetic experience for the reader, rather than one being jarringly substandard to the other.

      Delete
    4. I love what you say about the harmony of text and images so, so much. It makes me so incredibly happy that I found you through a link to this article. You just put into words everything that I want my blog/writing/photography to be. Thanks for that. I feel as if my vision is clearer now, as if the whole blogging thing makes sense again. I probably sound so dramatic right now. Anyway. Thanks.

      Delete
  12. Is there any chance that you could provide details about what you think is so unprofessional about Kinfolk? I feel like this article was unfair as you seem to be suggesting that their magazine is overpriced, considering the quality, but you don't actually say what the problem is. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Beth,

      I believe we mentioned that we feel the magazine's written content does not match the high (and gorgeous) quality of the visual content. For the price of a book, I expect the entire content of the magazine to be at a consistently high standard and while I have been wowed by the visuals of the magazine, I've consistently felt the writing was weak. There are exceptions, but I believe it shouldn't be so hit-and-miss.

      It seems to us that the magazine (and not just Kinfolk, many indie magazines) operate using a network of blog-friends rather than the kind of blind submission process that Hila & Anon describe above. I think it's great when you have talented friends/staff to draw from and employ. However, many of the people writing are simply not writers and I think readers deserve the same consistent level of skill and talent from the written content as the visual styling and images. To grow and innovate, I believe there should be professional submission processes that give serious consideration to experienced contributors who are not necessarily in the same "inner circle."

      I hope I answered your question!

      Jane

      Delete
    2. Hi Beth,

      I just want to back Jane up here and say that she has summarised my own response to your question about our article. And I hope this response answers your question too, as we certainly don't mean to be unfair, just honest.

      Hila

      Delete
    3. Jane: Butting in to say that I really felt I was the only one who felt that way about Kinfolk. I admire it in the magazine shop, but I can never bring myself to put down so much money on it, for the same reasons you outline in the first paragraph of your comment above. In fact, I was starting to feel there was something wrong with me because the blog world seems to love it so much, and nobody's ever questioned the content!

      Delete
    4. Thanks Samantha!

      I've heard the same thing from many people - that's why Hila and I stated that we feel the issue is bigger than just us two. We also feel qualified enough given our respective professions (like you!) to appraise writing, impartially and with discernment.

      I honestly believe it does a disservice to our community when everything in "public" is shiny-happy and offline conversations, DMs etc. are where people say what they really think. And I believe this approach is what makes public comments so polarized between trolling and fanatical praise.

      I've said lots of positive things about Kinfolk, about many blogs and indie publications. I'm always by default "on their side" at the outset, willing them to do well and happy for people in our community to succeed (in both the fiscal and creative sense). However, given how ready I am to be positive, I think the same readiness should be there to say that I'm, for example, disappointed.

      Finally (and sorry for the long response!) I want to emphasise that this post is not just about Kinfolk. It is just one example independent magazine that both Hila and I are acquainted with. But the post, as the title suggests, is about writing and this community, which includes blogs, e-zines, indie publications and even books. Both Hila and I (and you!) are part if this community as both writers and also readers/consumers. Our comments and observations stem from both perspectives.

      Thanks!

      Delete
    5. Oh, I got that the post in general wasn't about Kinfolk; I was just referring to your comment to Beth. Sorry that I wasn't clear!

      Delete
    6. No, no! You were 100% clear. I just wanted to state that openly as this thread has become a Kinfolk thread and I didn't want other readers or Beth to think the post was solely about that one publication, which I agree would be unfair.

      Delete
    7. Jane - I just came across this post and I've been soaking it up and taking notes. Your comments here (along with Hila) make complete sense and don't feel negative to me at all. It's actually quite helpful and constructive.

      My background is in economics and business (not publishing, english, editing, etc) and Kinfolk started as somewhat of an accidental full-time project, similar to a lot of the new indie magazines we're seeing pop up (Gather Journal, Anthology, Sweet Paul, WayFare, etc). Very few of us on our team have much publishing or editorial experience and it's super overwhelming trying to figure out how it all works. We often stick with many of the same contributors simply because we're so swamped trying to reach deadlines that it seems like the most manageable/comfortable approach to keep our heads above water. With that said, we recognize that we need (and want!) to improve and diversify the written stories we include. This post is a great reminder for us to prioritize that so the writing feels more balanced with the visual content, as you mentioned.

      Thanks to both you and Hila for your transparency. I know the post isn't exclusively targeting Kinfolk, but the message is received over here regardless :)

      We're learning and rolling with the punches! Let me know if you have any other specific feedback in the coming months as we release new issues. I sense that you're both quite busy, but if you have specific suggestions for how we could improve our submissions process to help us triage quality pitches and experienced writers for this kind of "blind" approach then I'd be keen to hear them.


      Best,

      Nathan
      nathan@kinfolkmag.com

      Delete
    8. Hi Nathan

      Thanks again for leaving such a frank and open response.

      I really appreciate your willingness to be transparent regarding your own background and the limited editorial resources you have at your disposal. And, of course, I understand that limited resources are a reality for start-up businesses such as yours.

      But I do believe that policies and operational processes regarding editorial quality and content acquisition should be in place from the outset. They are the very core components to your business. And even if it's not your personal background, I guess I'm surprised you wouldn't identify it as a pillar area to staff and resource at the outset.

      I work at a large newspaper company and often find that I have to cross-over into areas that aren't my main expertise because of resource issues. So, I empathize with your challenges and believe it's increasingly common in our industry to feel stretched in this regard.

      The key, for me, is that any shortfall should not be visible to the readers and subscribers. I mean, there will always be mistakes made and some story that's not as good as another. But, overall, I believe readers shouldn't be able to discern more ongoing neglect in one core area of a publication.

      Since you asked for specific feedback, I would suggest investing in this area of your business to the same extent that you do the stunning visual components of the magazine. I'm not sure of your current structure, but it sounds like you don't have the resources to handle a submission process and are therefore limited to working with the same contributors because of time constraints.

      I have written for publications that have reached out to me because they are actively reading blogs and features in other magazines and outlets, thereby seeking new voices and stories. I have also submitted blindly to publications and after reviewing samples and my portfolio, have been accepted or commissioned to write. Both processes involve editors who take time and have talent to weed through a slush-pile of submissions in order to find something new. Unfortunately, I don't think there are easy shortcuts for that process.

      I know this isn't a magic bullet answer, but I very much believe it's the right one. So, I hope this helps in some small way.

      Thank you again!

      Jane

      Delete
    9. Hi Nathan,

      I'm just following on from Jane's comment here, which pretty much summarises my own response.

      I've worked on both the writing and editorial end, and have experience dealing with both submissions as an editor/assistant for publications, and submitting my own work for consideration to publishers/publications. I can usually tell the quality of a publication based on both how its staff deal with the submission process, and how I may react to it as a reader myself - i.e. whether I'm willing to spend my money to buy the publication.

      I agree with Jane that any quality publication that seeks to have a viable future beyond the current trends needs to have a clear and transparent system of handling the submission process beyond just relying on the same group of people.

      Many of the publications I've been involved with were small, with limited to non-existent funding. But I still had to read every single submission and treat every one seriously. This is basic editorial practice. There was a clear priority in handling and staffing the submission process from the outset. Put simply, I think any quality publication needs to set up guidelines on how to treat all submissions and hire someone who has basic editorial experience to sort through submissions. This requires time and effort, and as Jane said, there aren't any short cuts here. But it is possible to do, and to do so within deadlines.

      I would suggest that if you are really keen on seeing how others manage this, you go read through the submission guidelines of various respected magazines and journals, many of whom use 'Submittable' these days: http://www.submittable.com/

      This is a good example: https://meanjin.submittable.com/submit

      All the best,
      Hila

      Delete
  13. Oh, I'm so happy to read this, Jane & Hila. I've been a journalist for 20+ years & it amazes me what goes on in the blogging world. I opted out of the discussion for ages. I think I'll pop back in now. xo/Susan

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm so happy to read this post. I've been a professional journalist for over 20 years & an avid reader of blogs for only 5. I have been put off by what you've written about. I echo the other comments. Rushing somewhere but wanted to say thank you so very much.

    xo/Susan

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for bringing this up. I'm a writer (fiction and poetry) but also a college professor and former high school English teacher. I'd love to see more great writing on blogs. Even though the visual is often highlighted, writing is an important part of blogging, right? Or at least, it should be. What bothers me most is just plain old grammatical and punctuation mistakes! This is the carelessness one of the commenters above brought up. I understand that not everyone has an innate sense toward language, but come on. Spell check exists. We don't have to dumb everything down.

    Interesting discussion about Kinfolk, etc. I haven't read an actual issue, but I'm not really surprised that the writing isn't great. I've seen it in plenty of online indie mags.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Janet! I have to hold my hands up for a big mea culpa with regards to plain old spelling mistakes etc. I too often make a correction after I hit publish and wince when I catch my own mistake. More generally, I'm usually pretty tolerant of that because many of the blogs I follow are not written by people who speak English as a first language.

      I agree with you that bloggers (myself included) can always take more care editing and copy-editing. And, indeed, professional blogs, e-zines etc. should employ people to do this, as it's notoriously difficult to copy-edit your own work. I've also been bothered by a lack of fact-checking. One Anthology magazine I bought, for example, claimed Ontario was on the opposite coast from British Columbia. Ontario is not on the coast.

      But when I talk about the writing quality, I'm more hung up on the manner of expression, the selection of words, the ability to convey emotion without being twee, nonsensical or cliche. A lot of what I see written is more akin to a press release than an editorial and is simply vacuous, even if it is "correct" in points of grammar and spelling.

      Thanks!!

      Delete
    2. Definitely. I think you're right, the real problem is the empty writing we see so much on blogs and other places, lacking in beauty or careful thought. I suppose part of what I was thinking was if people can't even spell something correctly (and I don't mean just the odd error; we all do that), they're probably not thinking about the words themselves. Thanks again!

      Delete
  16. Oh, I should say, too, that this is why I like your blog, Jane. You care about language and writers, and you read books! Imagine. That's something I'd like to see more of, because I think literature can make us better people (I tell my students that all the time). At the least, reading makes us better writers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah thank you! That is lovely to read and I agree with you about reading making us good writers, and -also - better readers!

      I don't hold myself up as a great writer, but I do care very much about words and literature and about how they can colour our world for the better.

      Delete
  17. What a thought provoking post - thank you.

    I think it's a deep cultural issue. Our media eats content. Readers clamor for some new snippet, new soundbite. They aren't satisfied to wait until someone takes care and time, produces a piece that speaks of sweat and spellcheck. We're used to texting abbreviation and electronic shorthand.

    There are blogs that contain great beauty. And - I'm going to be honest - a few blogs I read have heart and life but the writer may not have a background in English, may botch spelling and grammar. I still enjoy the give and take, the funny photos, the exchange of virtual hug. Blogs can be the great equalizer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Birdie.

      I tend to agree... but when I think of things as larger issues, I start to feel overwhelmed and pessimistic. The truth is that Hila and I (and you!) are not the only ones who care about books, words etc.

      I text too, for sure - it all has its place. But we can change gears and go at different speeds, especially when the content calls for it. And I think we're all starting to burn out of the "more is more" content proposition. Infinite scrolling on Pinterest, for example, just makes me everything seem like a haze of the same old pretty.

      And I agree with you too re English. I've overlooked some bad grammar when the expression is sincere and profound. Yes, it does distract me and I think it would be better otherwise. But I also think that's one area where I think a blog is more "human" and less professional and it's actually not a terrible thing.

      Delete
  18. Jane & Hila-

    I read this yesterday on the train and wished to wait until I was home, on a computer, to properly process and draft out my response.

    I agree with you. Blogging has been at the forefront of my mind in recent weeks, especially as I plan to launch a part time, semi-freelance career relative to writing and photography. I've felt tempted to pitch to certain indie publications and larger blogs, but every time I go to do it, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth (just to clarify, I have't yet pitched or reached out).

    I wasn't sure what my problem was, until I realized that it has to do with the community as a whole--the cliques, the inner circles, the blogging/networking conferences--it turns me off in such a way that I don't want to be a part of it. The process of figuring out how to "break in" is exhaustive enough.

    In terms of the blogs I read, I agree with Rachel/Heart of Light. Although, I do tend to only recommend blogs that have a strong grasp on written word.

    Thanks for putting this out there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Kayla! I'm sorry to hear that you feel held back by this, much as I empathize and relate to that feeling. I have to say, I write a lot and have a way better track record and experience being published by companies that people typically think of as being "impenetrable". It's been the indies that I find most unresponsive and often unprofessional, I'm sorry to say.

      I really hope you have a different experience and I don't think you should feel discouraged from trying. Rejections are definitely part and parcel of the publishing world and sometimes can be helpful, informative and even lead to other opportunities. I hope you manage to "break in" and I very much wish you success!

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Jane! All in all, it's mostly my own insecurities holding me back (though I often wonder how much of other people's successes are contingent upon who they know rather than how good they are. hate to think that way, but in some cases, it is both obvious and disheartening).

      Delete
    3. Ah yes! Just know that sometimes you're feeling insecure for good reasons that have nothing to do with you. I think we beat ourselves up very quickly for not doing something but it's often the case that we're perceiving valid reasons to be put off.

      I feel the same way about gyms/ changing rooms (completely off-topic!) and have learned to find other ways of exercising instead of "shoulding" myself into situations I find stressful!

      Delete
    4. Hi Kayla: I agree with Jane, you should try pitching to the bigger magazines. I've found out in the last few weeks how untrue their reputation for being 'impenetrable' is. So far, I have found them to be professional, responsive and open to pitches. Every magazine (and editor) is different of course, but I think too many writers (including myself) have bought into the myth that we can't approach them, and that our only chance is indie magazines. To be perfectly frank, I wish the bulk of indie magazines I've dealt with were half as responsive and professional as the bigger magazines I'm dealing with now. This is a shame, but it shouldn't hold you back. Try both, and see what happens.

      And yes, I think just about every writer out there can empathise with those feelings of insecurity! Rejection is part of the game, and it's not the end of the world. Actually it can be very beneficial. One big publisher for example turned down my book manuscript when I was first pitching it to publishers. But in their rejection letter, they suggested how I could improve my book proposal. They were very kind and helpful. And I got a book contract with the next publisher I approached. Similar things have happened to me with smaller writing pitches, like articles. So I hope that encourages you!

      Delete
  19. Fascinating post, and useful for me to read too. I am in a different niche, perfume that is, but we are facing the same issues. I love the concept of the writing and the subject matter matching beauty for beauty, something to aspire to. Thank you for bringing up so many issues for thoughtful comment, we do need more of this public self examination as bloggers.

    ReplyDelete
  20. For me, this is exemplified by Etsy, which is and is not a blog. I bought numerous things there for my wedding and since then for gifts, but their "no criticism" policy combined with slow reactions to flagging/emails has left many feeling disenchanted. I then see their attitude seeming to trickle down to bloggers, who take up the "no criticism" mantle, but arguing that it's for the benefit of creating a safe space for non-professional writers to contribute. I agree with the commenters above that people need to figure out the difference between a troll and constructive criticism. You can't get away with terrible writing or erroneous info under the guise of "this is a safe space."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Beth

      I agree - there are definitely retail parallels here and I wrote a post about that last year. I don't think the post is very comprehensive, rereading it now, but the comments are certainly. Here's a link! http://seenandsaid.blogspot.ie/2011/03/constructive-criticism.html

      Thanks

      Jane

      Delete
  21. By the way, different Beth than the one who posted earlier (Aug 8)! Just saw her comment and wanted to clarify :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I never assume! As a Jane, I'm used to many, many namesakes :)

      Delete
  22. thanks for the link to the other post-- i'm happy to have found your blog via happysighs.com and look forward to reading more!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Such a well written post. To echo some of the other commenters, I too, from time to time, have found the club like atmosphere of the blogging world reminiscent of a popularity contest. It was one of the chief reasons that I gave up blogging. Being talented and being popular sometimes get confused.

    Frankly, more than anything, it's just kind of boring to only see the same people and views recycled in different venues -- be it blogs, contributing on blogs, on Etsy, and in the new indie magazines, as you call them. What was meant to be seen as unique, independent, and creative starts to become something to avoid rather than embrace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Honora. I agree... what should be different can begin to look bland in its ubiquity.

      Delete
  24. I keep coming back to read this. I think you are both brave and whip-smart and I'm glad to see the comments have continued the discussion. I personally have always looked at my blog as a frivolous thing, for my own entertainment, a work in progress; there have been times when I've wanted to do more, write more, but I'm such a private person that it's nearly impossible for me to consider it. While I don't put much effort into the writing on my blog (because, sadly, I find that people don't always read it), I do try to write clearly, plainly. I may have dropped out of journalism school and I know I will never be taken seriously as a writer (which breaks the heart of 20 year old me quite a bit, although 20 year old me got out before she could be rejected by other writers!) but this makes me wish I knew how to get that writing muscle in shape, so many years later and in a radically different world where I only scan newspaper headlines on Twitter.

    Thank you for this reminder. I keep trying to figure out what could possibly be next for me, and this is inspiring. I know that's a word that gets thrown around casually, but I truly mean it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anabela - Thank you so much for this comment. It's nice to hear this post has inspired you... Hila and I both feel rather confused about the "what now?" part of the equation so your optimism is uplifting!

      Let me say first that I consider your blog beautifully expressed, both visually and in written word. Your posts are always thoughtful, warm and expressive and I always feel a "real" person there who is intelligent and creative.

      I also want to clarify something we didn't clarify in the post (not just in response to you but for all readers)... we're really talking about "professional" blogs, magazines and e-zines here, rather than personal blogs. It would seem rude and imperious of us to suggest requisite editorial standards on everybody who has blog. And I, for one, value the lack of barriers to entry in this realm, so would never want to imply some categorical imperative.

      That said, I think words are undervalued, often unconsidered and frequently ignored by blog readers. As a writer and somebody who loves words, this makes me sad. But more, as a professional it makes me feel I've hit a "glass ceiling" as to what I can contribute in our community. My talents are not in design or graphic arts and I'm a modest, though enthusiastic, photographer. Where I'm ambitious and want to grow, is as a writer. And the feeling that that will not happen here is frustrating. But more than my own personal frustration, I think we're doing a disservice to our community, readers and the products (e-zines, magazines etc.) when we overlook the contribution writers could make.

      Delete
    2. Hi Anabela and Jane,

      I just wanted to add my own response here. I feel very much like Jane, as in, 'what's next'? I'm thoroughly confused, because while on the one hand, I've found the blogging community to be supportive and kind, on the other hand, there is a seeming limit to its tolerance and respect for writing. Writing is my profession, my craft and my passion, and I feel it should be treated with the same enthusiasm and respect as is shown to photography and design in our community. It's difficult to see it so undervalued in a medium such as blogging, where it should realistically shine and thrive. I think we have developed a culture of the dominant visuals in blogging, with writing seen as a purely descriptive, secondary thing, rather than an art in itself. This accounts for why my blog, which is text-heavy, only has a handful of loyal readers who bother to comment. I'm grateful for their support, and consider myself lucky to have them. But as Jane said, I feel I've hit a 'glass ceiling'. All the energy and creativity that I pour into my blog with barely an acknowledgement or respect for the written word makes me feel like I'm wasting my time. This makes me so sad, because I want to keep blogging and I see so much potential in it and its print publications.

      Also, Jane points out a very good point: this is all doing a great disservice to our community, and I think we're better than that. Of course, I echo her sentiments in saying that what we're talking about here is definitely not personal blogs, but professional blogs and their print products (magazines, zines, etc.). The lack of professionalism and respect for writing (and writers) we've seen in both led us to write this post, but we would never be so rude as to suggest a blanket standard for all blogs.

      I'm glad you found this inspiring Anabela, because Jane and I are feeling quite deflated at the moment, so this support and enthusiasm means a lot to us.

      Delete
  25. It's so encouraging to read that others care, too. Many others seem to think those who care about good writing are too much effort to read; like Hila, I too have felt discouraged by the lack of meaty response or response at all after putting much effort and time into writing. I think perhaps part of the problem is the distractedness, the busyness, of people and the overwhelming amount of material out there. Just as good writing seems to be for some, engaging meaningfully has become too much effort or takes too much time or commitment.

    Well articulated post, Jane and Hila. I've tweeted it, because it's important for several reasons, and I hope it's shared by others!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Steph, for your comment and support!

      Delete
  26. Just because a professional blog or indie magazine doesn't focus on writing doesn't mean it needs to.

    If you want a magazine to focus on writing then start one. PLEASE! I can't wait. I'll be the first one in line to critique your mediocre visuals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We obviously disagree.

      I think a magazine that contains writing absolutely should focus on the written work and every piece of content their publication contains. Otherwise, why put in any words? Why not just omit the words and let the images speak for themselves?

      If an effort is make to write, should it not be to the same high standard as the visual content? Do readers no deserve the best of both?

      And, if I were to start a magazine with a focus on literary content and include imagery, I certainly would source it from talented artists and photographers and not ask writers to pick up cameras and paintbrushes. This is all we're suggesting existing indies do with regards to their written content.

      Delete
    2. Anna: I agree with everything Jane said in response to your comment.

      You'd be most welcome to critique our imagery (mediocre, or not) if one day we created a magazine that also featured visual content. Because I know that if Jane or I ever did that, we would source this visual content from professional photographers, artists and designers, and not assume that anyone can pick up a camera or a paintbrush and create visual imagery good enough for a professional, quality publication. It would be nice if indie magazines did the same with writing - otherwise, as Jane points out, why include it? Unfortunately, writing is often treated as jotting down a few descriptive words by anyone. I think you have to put your empathy cap on and try to understand how discouraging and unfair that is to writers who spend years working in their profession, and being trained for it, hoping to contribute something to an indie and blogging community in the same manner as photographers, visual artists and designers. We don't like feeling like we can't contribute anything to this community, or as if our own art is something that can be easily dismissed. You seem to have missed the point of this post, and its spirit of constructive criticism - constructive being the key word.

      Delete
    3. I completely agree with you, Jane, especially because most magazines--Vogue, Dwell, Whole Living, Real Simple, etc.--place a huge value on the written word even if the written word isn't the focus of the publication. Print publications--from nationals to smaller regional products-- go through rounds and rounds of proofs and layouts and there's a high value placed on EVERYTHING, from the quality of an image to the placement of commas and periods in the smallest of captions. Like Jane and Hila have said, I think if a publication is calling itself a magazine and is being put out for public consumption, attention should be paid to quality on every level.

      Thanks again, Jane and Hila, for bringing up this subject; it's making me think more deeply about the kind of writing I'm producing each day--professionally and for my blog, but also in my more personal, unshared stuff.

      Delete
    4. Thanks Megan! I'm just thinking 'out loud' here, as I've been staring at my copies of Meanjin today (http://meanjin.com.au/). This is an example of a literary journal where the focus is most definitely on the writing. However, it has also a deep respect for the visual content it includes, and the overall design of the publication. For example, it doesn't just put any old image on the cover, but tends to deliberately source its cover images from visual artists whose work interacts with the themes of the written content within. There is a harmonious interplay between words and images, and a respect for both.

      I also remember a few months ago receiving an email from a literary journal editor asking us to spread the word to artists and photographers to submit cover images. Even in these niche, literary-minded journals where the focus is obviously the writing, there is a recognition that visual content needs to be sourced from people who actually practice visual art. I love that. My mother is a visual artist, I have the deepest respect for the hard work that goes into it. And as you point out, many magazines whose focus isn't writing still require the same standard of quality and attention to detail.

      Delete
    5. Like your comment here, Jane. I like that you are highlighting the importance of different talents.

      Delete
  27. Thank you for writing this well-intentioned post. This reminded me of my first brush with blogging and the entire blogosphere just a few years ago. Your blog is actually one of the first three blogs I only followed since I was tentative to follow so many. I guess I wanted to actually be familiar with the blogger or be a familiar reader before checking up more blogs. I'm rather late on the blogging bandwagon and was amazed that just about anyone could create a blog, make a post and click 'Publish'. It was exciting and inspiring at the same time. I did struggle a bit what to write though because of a few number of things. (I keep a journal since my teens and I write for our school paper and dabbled a bit on freelance writing). These two are somewhat rather exclusive of each other. The free way I write on my journals is definitely not the process in which writing for a paper is done (proofreading, etc). I was surprised that on blogging, somehow you could actually fuse the two, hence my struggle on what principles to follow. At first, I was a bit conscious, then again, it seems a lot just write randomly so sometimes I take up the more free way. A blog is simply reflective of its owner in a way.

    This post has allowed me, at the least, to check myself (even though no one really reads my blog). I have so much respect on the written word and even though the nature of my blog is more personal than commercial, I wouldn't mind upholding this art to mirror quality. Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Rouenna - I am very happy that this post has allowed you to frame some reflections regarding your own blog content.

      I agree, there are no rules to be followed, no guidelines to be enforced - every blogger unto themselves etc. At the same time, I think thoughtfulness with regards to content - both visual and written - is something we should think about as content creators!

      Thanks again

      Jane

      Delete
  28. Jane, Hila, yes. I doubt the possibility for real beauty (which is challenging, rich, deep, faceted, nuanced) to emerge from a community where there is no tradition of critique. Moreover, on a personal level, I find the idea dull. I want thought—real, meaningful thought—to be part of my life in all places, including the things I consume.

    On a slightly tangential note, I found this and thought it was an apt parallel; maybe you've seen it: http://nplusonemag.com/on-ladyblogs

    Thanks for this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Éireann - I agree completely and also find the idea dull. Though criticism is sometimes hard to hear it is also vital and some of my best working relationships have been with those I trust to offer sincere and structured criticism. The thing that's most important, I feel, is that sense that criticism comes from people who are ultimately "on your side", who are pointing out these things because they want you to succeed and grow.

      I read your link last night and it's definitely one I have to come back to and reread - very interesting. Thank you for sharing!

      Delete
  29. Hello Jane and Hila

    Your subject and comments I find fascinating. I have also visited Cup of Jo and viewed the post and comments.

    I am trying to practice the words imparted to me recently by a very wise and brilliant architect, of which I posted this week, Listen, listen and listen some more. If we listen enough we may not need to ask any questions.

    I have determined that editorial quality and integrity were at issue in the case of Cup of Jo.

    I still have questions and would love to hear from both of you.

    You refer the rules and laws governing journalism. I would like to hear what the top three rules are and of course would love to hear more than three but I also respect your time.

    Helen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Helen

      I definitely want to write a considered response to this question, but I'm on my second last day in Ireland and things are getting nuts. If you'd be so kind as to wait until the weekend, I promise to get back to you!

      Thanks!

      Jane

      Delete
    2. Hello Jane

      Oh please, by all means, enjoy your time in Ireland which is much more important.

      My best,
      Helen

      Delete
    3. Hi Helen - Thanks for your patience. I'm back at it now!

      Okay, I would break down the 3 most important journalistic rules as follows:

      1. Plagiarism
      Content should be your own work and any 3rd party content should be appropriately differentiated and credited, with permission acquired if necessary.

      Plagiarism of content is fairly easy to identify the more "original" your work is. But when a blogger is simply posting press releases, products and images, a claim on "originality" or being first is near impossible to establish.

      However, to give an example, one of my more reflective, essay-style posts was posted verbatim on another blog without any credit and I immediately requested its removal and threatened legal action if not.

      Plagiarism of a blog or post design or post ideas is more difficult to establish. For example, I've seen lots of other people do "Sunday best" or "Three of a kind" style posts. It occasionally irks me, especially when I notice they follow my blog and started doing these posts after I did. But it's entirely possible they had the same idea. And as long as they're coming up with their own content for those posts, I tend to suck it up.

      Delete
    4. 2. Copyright
      Acquiring permission for use of 3rd party is a bit wishy-woshy in blogs, where there's more of a "share and share alike" approach.

      But crediting is, or should be, a non-negotiable. Even when you credit, if a maker requests their content be removed from your site, you should comply. It's important to be aware of what you can and cannot copyright and to respect other's rights to copyright their content (music, images and written word).

      Of course, this is all approached more loosely on the blogosphere, but there is still the possibility of legal action in the case of a copyright breach (though usually there will be polite a request to remove first, which if complied with will resolve the situation).

      Suggested guidelines for crediting sources were set down in this handy document http://www.mammothandcompany.com/shop/giving-credit-storm-cloud-grey-by-pia-jane-bijkerk/. The style of a credit (e.g. placement and font size) is not dictated by law, though this document does make a suggestion of what an image creator would like to see observed.

      Delete
    5. 3. Advertising standards
      Advertising standards differ country to country. For example, in the US, bloggers are not supposed to blog about freebies without disclosing it's a freebie (strangely, magazines are not held to these standards).

      - Posts that are paid for and approved by the advertiser (either in dollars or as a "contra" deal) should be exposed as an "Advertorial", "Sponsored post" or "Advertisement".

      - Posts where the product is supplied and there is payment, but the advertiser does not "approve" the post prior to publication, should also be differentiated, though they are strictly not the same as an Advertorial. Examples of posts that frequently fall into this category include "Sponsor introduction" posts. In good cases, the blogger will put a note saying that these posts are offered to sponsors, but that the content contained in the post is editorial, including, for example, personal product picks.

      - Contests that are paid for (versus giveaways where a blogger is personally offering a gift to their readers) are also a form of advertising and should be treated as such, with the blogger making explicit what part of the contest is editorial and what part is paid content. Many bloggers host contests for free as they're a good way of generating a certain kind of traffic. I believe that they're being taken advantage by doing so... basically giving free advertising to companies. But it is not illegal.

      In general, I would like to see the major blogs have a web-page where they explain their standards and terminology, so that it's transparent for users exactly what is paid and unpaid content. I find that questions of editorial integrity arise when there is a lack of transparency about the background transaction. This is often not because the blogger has done anything illegal, but rather readers feeling that they're not being fully forthcoming.

      The worst case scenario is when a reader starts to doubt editorial integrity of posts that ARE fully editorial because of the volume and/or treatment of posts that are advertorial. Before things get dangerous from a legal perspective, they usually get fuzzy from an ethical perspective. Obviously, you can be within the confines of a law and still behave in a way that is questionable from the standpoint of editorial integrity.

      I hope this helps!

      Delete
    6. Hello Jane

      Sincere thanks for taking so much time to explain three of the major rules, advertising, plagiarism and copywright.
      This is extremely valuable information and useful to all bloggers and writers. Thanks also for pointing out how careful one must be in blog and post ideas. Now that you mention it, I have seen bloggers use "Three of a kind" and "Sunday Best" and did immediately think of your blog.

      I apologize for taking so much of your time in writing this. I am truly appreciative.
      Have a great weekend. I will be looking forward to hearing about your holiday to Ireland. Oiche Maith
      Helen xx

      Delete
    7. You're welcome! Thanks, Helen!

      Delete
  30. What a great article, Jane! Thank you for taking the time to write this. Well said!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Jane, I've had this post marked to read for some time, and I'm sorry I'm just getting around to it now. You and Hila have raised so many important points in it and have discussed things that I have experienced myself. I don't have much professional writing experience but I am a writer at heart. The current state of things -- the preference for visual over written, the cliquishness of some groups -- is frustrating and I've felt really lost as to how to pursue a career as a writer when it seems nearly impossible to have the opportunity to work with indie publications.

    With regards to the Cup of Jo post, I'm actually curious to know how you would feel about writers revisiting topics. There are several posts I've written for my blog that I would eventually like to expand on, perhaps in the form of a book. I feel that's fairly natural.

    Thank you both so much for the opportunity to reflect on this topic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brandi - The issue wasn't the reuse of material, it was the lack of disclosure. As one commenter said, if she had written "hey I wrote about this for Glamour and I still think about it... any new thoughts? etc" there wouldn't have been an issue.

      Journalists and writers frequently revisit the same topics, expanding or putting a new angle on topics. I myself blog about recurring themes and often reference old posts when I do so.

      But I never verbatim publish a post I published elsewhere as if it is "today's idea" and then post "new idea" comments on the same post as if they just occurred to me. I believe this is what the community reacted so strongly against and what also led them to question how "real" the voice and content is on this blog more generally.

      The only time this would become a legal issue is if you verbatim republish a piece that you have assigned rights elsewhere to. E.g. when I write a piece for a magazine, I often assign them full rights to publish and republish (with a fee if they do syndicate). So I legally cannot offer than same work to another publisher, or self-publish it myself.

      Hope this helps!

      Delete
  32. Hi Brandi: with regard to your question about re-using your own material, I'll give you my own personal example: when I was writing my book, I wanted to include two articles I previously published in two book collections. The copyright for those articles technically remained with me, however, I still had to seek formal written permission to re-use my own writing. Granted, this is an example of material that undergoes strict editorial and publishing processes, however, it isn't that remote from blogging.

    From my understanding of the comments on A Cup of Jo, the issue that many readers had with the post is not the actual re-use of her own work, but the fact that she wasn't honest about it. Some readers also claimed that she copied a comment on the original article and used it without crediting the person who made it - which, if true, is plagiarism. I don't know if this is true, but they are within their rights to pose these valid questions to a professional journalist and career blogger.

    There's nothing wrong with re-using your own work, as long as you state so upfront, and give credit where credit is due. This applies from both a legal and an ethical perspective. Expanding on your own posts into a book or articles is something that many writers do. I'm not an expert obviously, so I'm basing my opinions here simply on my own experiences. But I hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete
  33. wow. I will have to go through these comments in greater detail. Generally, thank you for writing this article. Jane, I think of your blog as one of a group of design blogs, but am learning through your writing that you are very different from this popular group of bloggers I associate you with. Mainly I put you in that group because 'they' link to you.
    I've been curious about the topic of "content strategy" and now about where is MY group, as I gently tire of pretty pictures of things I cannot afford and that do not necessarily make my life 'better.' Is there a hierarchy, a level, or a place on the internet for serious but non-academic writing?
    I wonder what blogs the academics in this comment section are drawn to? What is their list of go-to links?
    I accept that there are cults, based on economy. The NYX is not going to use writers who do not have an existing readership (for the most part). Folks want people to come to the party, and bring their own audience.
    No one can make the issue of making a living go away, unless one is independently wealthy.
    Ever growing.. my list, and myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sara

      Thank you. It's interesting that you say you think of me as a design blogger. I don't, though I admire design and include it. I guess that's splitting hairs.

      More important to me is to reflect ALL the things I'm passionate about and writing is both what I do and what I love. I always try to wrap my words around what I post, even if it's a design object.

      As for blogs I recommend:
      - Hila's blog, naturally
      - An Apple a Day, beautiful in every aspect including the expressiveness of her writing
      - even*cleveland - beautiful thematic waves that cross disciplines
      - Grass Doe, which is a photography blog, but every post feels like a short story
      - Torn Sheets (full disclosure, my real life best friend's blog); mostly very short stories
      - Simple Village Girl
      - La Porte Rouge

      I believe all of these are linked on my blogroll page (which is much in need of a house-clean!)

      Ever growing is a good way to be, I hope I'm doing likewise :)

      Delete
  34. You might like Orion Magazine
    http://www.orionmagazine.org/
    is an interesting mix, and I think they have some freedom to curate/ edit based on some personal preference, as well as who will draw a like minded reader. I know this magazine because I know someone involved with it. It is very well designed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sara - I have subscribed to their feed!!

      Delete
  35. Wow... I'm thrilled to have come across this post. You have articulated some thoughts that I had wondered if I was quite alone in thinking. My mum just phoned me as I was halfway through reading the comments and I found myself talking to her about some of these issues even though she has only ever read one blog in her lfe - mine! But she understood. I am a person who tries to read beyond the surface of people and blogs etc. Your article has confirmed to me that I'm not imagining these things I have thought about! I have spoken with another blogger friend about how we find ourselves occasionally falling into the trap of commenting on bigger blogs or putting in submissions in the hope that they will notice us - only to be ignored. I find it sad when it is all about the cliques of blogging and not necessarily the quality of the content. I struggle with my banner saying "photographer" when really I'm just a legally blind person who loves taking photos, but it was a title I chose in order to get the message across in as few words as possible. Nor do I consider myself a "writer" but rather someone who likes to put words together with my heart sometimes. I think I'm rambling off on a tangent, but I just want to say how much I appreciate your courage is speaking about these issues openly on here. I find myself in a reflective phase at the moment, questioning what my comfort and aspirational zones are in the online world. I truly hope that you find outlets that continue to value your words. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm happy the timing worked out that way for you (sometimes, we seem to stumble on reading certain things when we need to).

      The cliques really are sad. But happily there are smaller groups of people who are open and friendly and real. I count myself lucky to be among such lovely people online.

      Delete
  36. As a photographer and an avid reader of good writing, I agree with everything you have written here. I have been distressed and saddened by the slow death of print publications. Not because I have a problem with the rise of online publications and blogs, but because of the lack of simple editing and discretion that goes into them at the cost of quality publications. I want to see good writers and photographers being published and compensated for their efforts. I am so tired of people thinking I can feed my kids with " great exposure". And I cannot read another insipid article that is plagued with grammatical errors and writing that would not pass third grade muster.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comments!

Comments are moderated for spam, advertising, obscenity etc. Please note that your profile name links to your site/blog. Using the comment field to promote your site/blog is considered spamming.