Open Letter to Traditional Media

Dear Members of the Traditional Media,

There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about for some time. Lately when I pick up my favorite magazine, turn on the news, or check out the e-version of the newspaper – because let’s face it, no one is buying the print copy – I’ve noticed that old media has begun to look quite a lot like new media. I’m not so sure I like this. Let me explain…

I am a blogger. I do not get paid for writing, but instead write because it is a release, a pleasure, a hobby, and yes, sometimes leads to paid opportunities. But it is not a job, per say. Should I continue to write, but not pursue other means of earning money, I would simply have no money. There’s no editor or producer turning in my time sheet at the end of the week.
You, on the other hand, are an employee of an organization. You may even call yourself a journalist. Bravo. Good form. Nice title. But here’s the thing…many of you are acting like bloggers.

Exhibit A: Sketchy Drawings
As you’ve clearly noticed around the blogosphere, those of us in new media enjoy avatars. You’re likely to find what appears to be hand drawn butterflies or hearts in a blogger’s header or more often than not, a cartoon version of a mom, frustrated by laundry, sipping coffee, or looking up from her laptop. As a community, the bloggiverse has begun to move away from these cartoon creations, which may explain why they’re now cropping up in print media and news sites. I can be tolerant – really I can – but if I see an Al Roker Manga, I’m turning off the tv for good.

Exhibit B: Social Situation
You’ve joined Twitter, you have a Facebook page devoted to fans of your show, and you may even use Friend Feed. I guess once Oprah jumped in the pool, the tidal wave that followed was to be expected. Bloggers knew we couldn’t have social media to ourselves forever. But might I suggest you actually be, well, social? As much as you enjoy tweeting, “Working on a piece for the 6 o’clock news,” we don’t so much enjoy reading those tweets. Spice it up a bit! Tell us that the weather guy stands on a crate to do his segments because he’s really 5’2″. Complain about that bi-atch who sits next to you at the news desk. Post a candid picture of yourself on Facebook instead of just your headshot. We understand you’ve got the “media” part down, so go ahead and mix in a little social please.

Exhibit C: Three Strikethroughs and You’re Out
I went to my local news’ website for a news update only to find a snarky piece about the snowstorm filled with amusing quips and clever little bloggy-isms like a strikethrough over the word snowstorm to replace the word with blizzard. Have you discovered WordPress? I bet that’s fun for you! We like it, too! But let us handle the guffaws, please. We’ve been doing it for much longer and it is far more appropriate. I really can’t handle an emoticon in a piece about the five car pile-up on the interstate….

So you just can’t walk away? I understand – we are a pretty fun group. Maybe the best thing to do is to try to emulate the blogging community in ways that will help your branch of the media.

Suggestion 1: Research and Investigate
A recent story about a mom and Twitter flew through the traditional media world faster than the Balloon Boy’s UFO in the thin Colorado air. While heavy hitters like CNN used a single source as their “man on the scene,” the blogging community looked on in horror. You know what we did next? We spent five whole minutes researching the source only to find a trail of questionable attention-seeking behaviors as well as the source’s real name. Some of the most thorough investigative research, in fact, comes from the blogging community. Kelby Carr, for example, founded a group of investigative mom bloggers and sent us out into our communities to document shopping cart violations at major stores across the country. I understand that the media is currently undergoing a budget crisis, but if bloggers can get the job done right with a budget of zero, perhaps a bit more effort on your part is possible.

Suggestion 2: Regurgitation Nation – How ‘Bout Some Original Content
I love a good editorial outreach. I’ve received countless e-mails from PR firms with “did you know that” messages that I truly believed were worth passing on to my readers. But sprinkled in heavily among those posts you’ll find original content that I have conceptualized and written…originally…by myself. Returning to the example above of the recent story of the Twittering mom, the same story appeared from New York City to Australia because it was picked up off the wire and pushed out to mass media. Unfortunately, it was rife with inaccuracies. Is that really the content that you believe will bring you back from the brink of extinction? Perhaps you ought to rethink that.

In conclusion, I’m sure that we can happily co-exist. Yes, as a whole, you’ve been more than a bit dismissive of us, but we can see from this copy-cat behavior that really you’ve got a little media crush on us. Maybe just move away from this “punch her to show her you like her” third grade behavior?

And if you have a tough time assimilating the tips I’ve listed above, there is always a simple solution – you could hire a blogger.

Yours truly,
p.s. Please don’t write something mean about me now. Thanks.

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