My inner self-flagellating Catholic got the better of me yesterday and I submitted a piece to The Punch.
Given that the reception I got last time I did so, I was a little gun-shy but I had something to say and nothing to lose but my already diminished ego (blogging has an oddly humbling effect). Also, it's good to leave the blog confines of GWAS every now and then and stretch the legs.
While you can read the story and the comments that follow at The Punch, if you're so inclined, I've since been chewing over its motivation and structure, after reading media maestro Tim Burrowes' post on "lazy journalism" yesterday.
Burrowes, who blogs several times daily on his site and composes three comprehensive industry newsletters each week, suggests that "undercooked" stories lacking in traditional journalistic structure, original leads and sources aren't necessarily lazy; they're a product of circumstance. The circumstances being journalists are required to produce a lot of "content" (many news agencies now call them "content producers") on a shoestring budget and super-tight, often hourly, deadlines.
Burrowes writes: "On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, I’m frantic. I aim to send out our newsletter email by lunchtime... at other times of the week I can afford to be more leisurely in building stuff up, but in those last couple of hours, I may need to write another four or five pieces... If your press release drops in my inbox and everything I need isn’t right there, I’m putting it to one side."
It's a similar story here at GWAS. As regular visitors would know, I try to keep the dynamic varied by mixing longer and shorter, visual and text-heavy, personal and industry-related posts – in that way, a blog is similar to a magazine. Posts like 'Short & Sweet', 'Glossy Report Cards', 'Cute & Chic' and 'Girl on the Street' are fun, visual and require minimal text, while the long-format glossy reviews, 'Girl Talk' rants and personalised Op-Ed-style posts require more writing time. I also often spend a deal of time editing guest glossy reviews while staying true to the voice of the author.
'Girl In Media' interviews usually transpire over a few back-and-forth emails, and 'Media Musings' is a matter of sifting, digesting and editing aggregated content from the internet and/or leads from PRs (some publishers have cottoned onto GWAS as a means for getting word about their magazines out into the marketplace). I hope to include more video content soon, just to spice things up a little (for me and for you).
In terms of practicing "real journalism", it depends on your definition. My newsagent is one of my key "sources", as are glossy editors and their ilk – in addition to magazine readers – while the glossies themselves serve as primary sources, industry sites like Mediaweek, mUmbrella , WWD and The Australian's media section are reliable secondary sources, and the likes of The Cut, Fashion Week Daily and Fashionista flesh out my daily GWAS-related media consumption. The weekend papers, and all the sites listed in my sidebar, fill the gaps.
Every newsagent and Borders store I enter has the potential to generate a lead: just today, two young girls debating which magazine to buy to take to the beach got my attention (you'll find out what they bought in an upcoming post). And every now and then I'm also tipped off about industry news which hasn't emerged elsewhere, which I then weigh up before deciding to publish it or not (to "glossip" or not to glossip?).
But back to The Punch. That story is what I'd call "join-the-dot" journalism. As a heavy media consumer, often I'll find trends emerging across several media platforms which point to a wider socio-cultural movement. Essentially, that's what 'Boomers are back in fashion...' is about: not Zac Efron's ability to sell fashion. The story piggy-backs on the work of other journalists (Catherine Caines gave me her personal nod of approval), while also referencing other observations, all of which is tied together to reflect the dichotomy that exists in media right now: between the young and the perpetually restless. I didn't phone anyone to gather quotes: paraphrasing the other journos fed that need. In fact, it took me all of an hour, some Googling and a few tweaks to get it up. Some stories write themselves.
Join-the-dot journalism is the mainstay of blogs (who like to piggy-back on each other), Op Eds and many magazines which report on social trends, though the monthlies have the advantage of longer lead times in which to flesh out their pieces with the appropriate "expert" quotes, enlightening/enlivening anecdotes and any necessary data (surveys and the like). For journalists on the fashion glossies, Fashion Week, showroom visits, designer look books and Style.com form the basis of their "beat", while their LBB (Little Black Books) are flush with PR contacts who do a lot of the ground work. As a beauty editor, I received approximately 346,589 press releases each week, making a major part of that job just sifting through the clutter (God bless the interns!) to find the diamonds in the rough.
I was amused last week to get a comment from a reader blasting me for posting only once throughout the day. I felt guilty for five minutes, but then shrugged it off. I'm not AAP, and I assume that while heavy GWAS readers visit a couple of times a day, most of the readership drops by once or twice a week: Mia Freedman reasons that this has the effect of flushing lots of hard work down the toilet, as there are only eight stories active on my homepage at any one time and most blog readers are reluctant to filter through the archives (apparently readers are pressed for time, too – how 'bout that!). Also, I do strive to give you more quality than quantity, filtering out the PR drivel and internet litter and self-editing where possible (blog pollution stinks!).
So, there you have it: Anatomy and Functionality of GWAS 101. Ah, how's that for a Punch line?
Girl With a Satchel