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.