I remember studying journalism in college and having one particularly heated discussion in my Intro to Media Ethics class about a then 11 year old girl named Tavi Gevinson. Tavi had created a rather fashion forward blog from her Midwestern bedroom and ended up shocking the journalism world when her quirky posts landed her in the audience of New York fashion week alongside the likes of Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington. While we were all paying upwards of $40,000 in college tuition to study the art of journalism, an eleven year old girl had just flown up the ladder for free. Today that amateur blogger is a young, successful editor of her blog-turned-magazine, Rookie. There is no debate today on whether Tavi is a journalist–she is respected in her field and proved that anyone with a knack for writing and passion for their subject can become a writer.
It was a memorable moment in my journalism education that stuck with me as it both exposed the growing power of blogging and begged the question of whether bloggers were the new journalists? Back then, my journalism dreams were somewhat convoluted and constantly swaying between a hope to write for National Geographic or be an editor at Vogue. I had yet to find my passion, yet to focus my writing and so just blindly wrote about whatever inspired me at the moment–be it fashion, food, travel or my dating diatribes. As a journalism major at Indiana University, I couldn’t have known then how I would one day embrace travel writing and become both a travel writer and blogger with stories in VICE, FOOD & WINE and more with assignments around the world.
When I’m asked what it is I do, I often explain to people that I am a travel journalist and blogger, which then almost always begs the question of what is the difference between the two? Many excellent writers without a journalism education have went on to become fantastic authors–Anthony Bourdain was a hardened New York chef who became a published author and is now known for his CNN show, Parts Unknown; Bill Bryson is a highly revered travel writer who dropped out of college to backpack the world and write numerous novels–as it goes, it seems that experience always serves a writer better than sitting in a classroom learning AP-style writing and grammar faux pas. To that point, last year when I was accepted for a graduate journalism program in London I weighed my options and decided that plunging myself into $70,000 worth of graduate loans wouldn’t benefit me nearly as much as taking a stab at freelance life in New York City and breaking into travel journalism on my own.
In an age where journalism has been whittled down to top 10 lists and meme heavy “articles,” it can be tricky to draw a line in the sand between a formal journalist and a blogger. As someone holding both a journalism degree and WordPress blog, in my opinion the difference between the two titles comes down to this: creative freedom. When I explain I am a travel journalist, I am essentially saying that I freelance for various publications and that my writing exists on other, larger scale publications although it is ultimately published at the discretion of the editor there. My freelance writing can be marked up, changed, revised and twisted in and out by an editor until they feel it matches the tone of their site; but on The Pin the Map Project I am essentially editor-in-chief and have full creative freedom over what is published on this website. Both journalists and bloggers can gain exclusive access to stories, cover topics that are politically charged, be sent on assignment abroad or write articles of societal importance; the difference between the two then is who their story is submitted to, of whether their article will go through three rounds of edits or be instantly published.
Reading this, one might raise their eyebrows and ask why bother with journalism then? For anyone looking to build their blog, I cannot recommend freelance writing enough for other publications as it both elevates your writing and helps drive traffic to your blossoming website. Writing for publications I admire, like VICE or Matador, has given me valuable tips into improving my own writing, pitching future editors and helping me grow The Pin the Map Project to what it is today. I will never discredit my journalism education because it helped take my love of writing and sharpen it, define it and give me the tools to turn that passion into a career. Likewise, I will never turn up my nose at bloggers for I am all too familiar with (and highly respecting of) the amount of time, dedication and adoration required of a blogger to consistently write for and maintain a website.
Perhaps there are more differences between bloggers and journalists but in my mind these two rival teams have mixed together to become harmonious in their camaraderie and overarching love for the written word. True, a journalist of Anderson Cooper’s caliber could hardly be considered on level with a fashion blogger, but all of us–bloggers, journalists and novelists–are artists bonded by a love of telling stories and opening the eyes of our readers to cultures, trends and situations they haven’t seen.
What do you think are the differences between a blogger & journalist? Share your comments, questions and stories below and check out my post BREAKING INTO TRAVEL WRITING 101!