Monday, 14 February 2011

When is a writer not a writer? When they're a blogger/journalist/author.

It all started innocently enough when a writer friend asked this question on her facebook page: 'What's the difference between a writer and a novelist?' and there followed a short debate about what the difference was between the two.

Then I read this post by the excellent Mark at Views from the Bike Shed which really put the cat amongst the pigeons. Blogging for writers? Not writing for bloggers? Intriguing.

These two things got me thinking about what the difference is between a blogger and a writer. I mean after all, aren't all bloggers writing on a regular basis? We all like to have labels for who we are and what we do, even if we hate being labelled we like to know where we stand.  ("Yes, I'm a writer darling, my shopping lists are second to none.")

Having said that I don't consider myself a writer at all, not for one second. I have no aspirations to be a writer and I don't have 'a book in me' which is what I hear a lot of aspiring writers say.  I blog for fun and before I discovered blogging I kept handwritten journals and they served the same purpose for me at the time, documenting my everyday life.

I often feel a little intimidated by the various writing workshops that take place on some blogs. Not because I disapprove, far from it - I think they're a great way for bloggers to practise or hone their creative writing, but because I don't feel qualified to take part. I shy away from them mainly because I find writing quite difficult, it's not something I find easy to do, but also because I imagine other more erudite bloggers sniggering at my cheek. (Although not you, of course not...)

When I started blogging 3 years ago I had no idea how much it would bring to my life. New friends - online and real life friends - invitations to take part in exciting events (and some not so exciting ones...), new areas of communication, an enjoyable hobby and, of course, the freebies are not to be sniffed at. Not by me anyhow.

But I've started to think that the lines of distinction between the different disciplines are beginning to blur. There are bloggers who have become published writers, and there are writers who keep blogs. There are also journalists who blog, ex-journalists and marketing professionals who are very successful bloggers and PR peeps who blog. Confused? Yes, I was a little but then I usually am about most things.

So, off I went to find some hard facts. What are the dictionary definitions of the terms author, writer, journalist and blogger? Here's a brief summary of what I found.

writ·er (rtr)
n. One who writes, especially as an occupation.

au·thor (ôthr)
1. a. The writer of a book, article, or other text.
b. One who practices writing as a profession.
2. One who writes or constructs an electronic document or system, such as a website.
3. An originator or creator, as of a theory or plan.

jour·nal·ist (jûrn-lst)
1. One whose occupation is journalism.
2. One who keeps a journal.

The term blogger is simply described as "someone who keeps and updates a blog."

There's a very interesting article from last year about this very subject which I found when I started looking for these definitions.  Blogging vs. Journalism puts forward different views of what makes a journalist and a blogger, including a quote from John Berman, a well known US news correspondent:

 “I think there can be great reporting on blogs,” Berman says, “but that all blogs do not necessarily contain great reporting.”

And I agree, but surely the same can be said of newspaper reporting? And here's a thought, are bloggers becoming social journalists? Is there even such a thing? I don't know, I'm just throwing it out there for you to think about.

I also stumbled upon this blog post by Jolie O'Dell asking the same question and she has some very clear distinctions between the two.

And then of course you can look at the Urban Dictionary which has some alternative definitions for people who blog.

Me? I'm still undecided. How do you describe yourself? Are you a writer, a journalist, a blogger, or something else altogether?  Come on, I'm all ears.