The NaBloPoMo prompt for today is a good theme to consider “Do you consider yourself a “professional” blogger? Why or why not? What does that mean to you?”
In short, no. I am just a blogger, not a professional. After nine years, I’m not an amateur either. I’m just a regular, plain old blogger.
The most obvious component of being a professional blogger is being paid to blog. “Monetization” is the fancy term, but it actually applies more to the blog site than the blogging (advertising, paid links, paid promotional posts, etc.) People who are paid to blog (solely, not as an extension of their daytime gig) are far and few between. I do have some advertising on my blog to help pay the bills (webhosting mostly) and I occasionally trade/barter a review for a service or good (usually, admission to an event.) But as I explained in my post about reviewing the Keurig 2.0 (thumbs down, btw), it is barely a break even exchange in terms of my hourly rate.
Pam Spaulding explained it more succinctly in her farewell post:
While the need to actually get sleep means I no longer have the time or energy to write long-form pieces or to go out to do original reporting, I will still be active on social media (Facebook, Twitter, G+). Blogging/citizen journalism, unfortunately, was not an avenue that I could carve out a space to make a living, though others from that initial class of new media bloggers did get absorbed into traditional media. Many, like myself, nevertheless, found our work ballooning into a full-time second job involving online and offline activism. For us it was unpaid or marginally supported (through ads) labor of love. In my case, it went on for nine years, and PHB made a dent in the political world of LGBT politics as new media challenged not only foes and the establishment, but our own advocacy organizations.
She brings up other elements related to professional blogging – the time commitment, for starters. There’s the backend of things – site administration, software glitches, layout issues. Last week alone, I spent five or more hours trying to resolve an issue with my open graph tags. The lack of being paid often means a DIY approach or begging friends for help.
Then there is the time researching, attending events to cover, digesting and analyzing information. I scan a hundreds websites and blogs everyday (thanks feedly) as well as Twitter, Facebook and my local media sources. The majority of the items get channeled into my social media feeds as I tend to shy away from “hey, read this other person’s blog post” posts on my blog. When I do seize something to post, I then do some further digging to determine the credibility and verify the contents. I often look for some local angle to contrast the information. The terrible example are the posts I’ve written this year about the murder of trans women of color – it takes a lot of time to confirm their chosen names and finding appropriate photographs, but I hope the fact that I invest that time is a reflection of my professionalism as a decent human being more than anything else.
I attend events, meetings and gatherings. I pay for my mileage, parking and admission out of pocket. I’ve been to some conferences that included expenses for me.
Then I write. And edit. And write some more. And search for photos to use (legitimately.) I look up links. I make layout and design decisions. Often this is all happening simultaneously. Then I monitor comments. I look at my stats to see what people are interested in reading and how they are clicking through to links. I share my blog post via social media and other websites.
In short, I do invest a significant amount of time for even the most fluffy pieces. Often it is just when I plan to post a great graphic that my WordPress image editor goes fritzy and I spend two hours addressing that issue. The best laid plans …
I also shy away from the term citizen journalism because I am not a trained journalist. Some friends (like Trish) scoff at me in wry amusement at my continued awe for journalism as a craft. Quite a bit of that stems from my own struggle to find my writing voice and the rest from my casual approach to grammar and spelling. I can drop a twenty-five cent word with the best of them, but I often treat commas like seasoning rather than tools. I suppose the difference is that I know what I am doing and *could* expend the effort to tighten up my writing. As my father used to say, half the battle is knowing that you should consult the dictionary, the other half is having a dictionary available.
You put two journalists in a room together (I’m looking at you Potter and Norman) and it takes about 30 seconds for terms to start flying. As with any group of professionals, I suppose. And since I am more fluent in social work than journalism, I still consider myself a professional social worker.
I do consider blogging to be a valid form of media, but the range of types of blogs makes it a pretty unwieldy beast to measure. I suppose in a lot of ways it is like journalism – there are people paid ungodly sums of money to read things written by other people and then there are people who toil for decades with little financial gain and no credit. And a lot of people somewhere in the middle.
There are also many journalists and others who take up blogging as an extension of their existing work. That certainly opens the door to ethical debates in terms of their fair compensation for creative content over and above their usual workload. For many businesses, blogging is an extension of communication and marketing efforts, but they rarely hire an established blogger to take on that task.
In fact, the thing I hear most often is “we’ll get an intern to do that.” Sigh. I guess the people who control the purse strings are the ones who don’t see blogging as a profession, right? It isn’t for lack of written evidence to convince them otherwise.
In nine years of blogging, I’ve written more than 2500 posts. I’ve contributed to several national sites (paid via “exposure”) and established myself as a credible authority on many (but not all) things LGBTQ Western Pennsylvania. I try very hard to tell the stories that often don’t see the light of day in this region and amplify voices via guest blogging and interviews. My blogging is always political, always advocacy because living out loud as a lesbian in this region is a political act.
I’m a regular blogger. Just like many of you. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.