Sunday 18 December 2016

Bloggers vs Journos: Why can't we all get along?

If you follow any major bloggers or vloggers on Twitter, you may have seen a flurry of tweets about an article written by Francesca Hornak for The Sunday Times Style entitled '24 Hours With... A Beauty Vlogger'. Part of The ST Style's relatively new series, this installment focused on the imagined life of a beauty vlogger, and included Starbucks, fairy lights and fitness-obsessed boyfriend cliches. Needless to say, this did not go down well in the blogging community.

A full-time blogger is often met with a look of doubt, or even an eye roll from time to time, when asked his or her profession. It's 'narcissistic', it's 'not a real job', it's 'lazy', say the masses, thanks to a superficial image perpetuated by traditional media. Take Zoella, the UK's most popular lifestyle blogger, as an example: on social media, her life seems a whirlwind of fairy cakes, pugs and top knots. It would be easy to think that that's all there is to her. But, just like models, actors, artists, singers and everyone who works in the creative industry, there is far more to the blogging profession than meets the eye.

You could say the same things about journalists. I have been a journalist for over five years and, to some of my friends, my life appears exciting and glamorous: I tell them about the celebrities that attended the party I went to last weekend, the makeup that landed on my desk before it was even on the shelves, and the time I got driven around the French Riviera in a vintage Porsche. I also tell them about the immense stress of never ending deadlines, the 4.30am starts and 11pm finishes, and the pressure of being constantly on the look out for the next story - but no one ever seems to remember those bits.

It's so easy for those who do not work in the creative industries to judge those that do. Because our jobs are unlikely to involve number crunching, heavy lifting or solving world hunger, our lives are often satirised. Which is exactly what Francesca Hornak was doing when she wrote '24 Hours With... A Beauty Vlogger', which details fictional vlogger Glitterbugeroo Instagramming her new pup's poop, much to the disgust of her boyfriend. She then goes on to illustrate the vlogger filming a video with outtakes, her thoughts on a sour encounter with another vlogger at a press event, and her somewhat trivialised struggles with anxiety and trolling.

For those of you with a Times subscription (one which I refuse to pay for as The Times can't give me anything more than what I can get online for free), here's the original feature: 24 Hours With... A Beauty Vlogger.

Francesca's work has appeared in The ST, The Guardian, Marie Clare and Stylist, among other national titles. Her Sunday Times Style column, History Of The World In 100 Modern Objects, ran for two years and, although it was never one of my favourites (I'm a Camilla Long fan through and through), it provided a different perspective on the way we see the objects around us. Inevitably, the column lead to a book deal, and Francesca remains a columnist at one of the nation's favourite fashion weeklies. 

With her credentials available via a simple Google, it's clear to see that Francesca is an accomplished journalist, who has no doubt worked hard to get where she is. So why would she make fun of a group of people who are taking the same journey and trying to replicate that success? 

Lily Pebbles, London-based beauty and lifestyle vlogger, had that same question when she criticised the feature in a recent tweet:

Lily Pebbles on Twitter / @lilypebbles

A little lower down her feed, Lily said she was surprised to read this in The ST Style, having only two weeks earlier had her 'Day in the Life' feature published in the magazine.

Other bloggers joined the conversation, deeming the piece as 'insulting', 'unsupportive' and even 'horrific'. 

Well, in my humble opinion, the only thing I see here that I could possibly call 'horrific' is the laziness of this feature. Toilet humour is never clever, witty or intelligent, and there are so many ways that this, as a satirical piece, could have been improved. I mean, in no world would I, as a blogger, ever think about photographing my dog's messes. I do, however, spend five minutes adjusting the position of my fairy lights before taking a photo so that they appear as if I have just nonchalantly tossed them on my bed. I also like Starbucks, my boyfriend is obsessed with fitness, and, yes, I do mess up my vlogs. By all means, satirise that. But if I were an Editor and someone on my team pitched me this literal shit of an idea, I would question whether that writer had spent the morning gabbing over X Factor results and put this together five minutes before our meeting.

Satire (when it's well written) is something that should exist in the media. It stops us from taking ourselves too seriously, and provides entertainment for those who don't really 'get' what we do, and probably never will. It's nonsensical to expect everyone to love, respect and appreciate who you are and what you do. Hell, even Beyoncé has haters. So when a piece which criticises your work is published, do as Beyoncé does and brush it off. Write a blog post about it. Pitch a counter-argument feature to the magazine. Anything. I know, we all have insecurities, and they're not something to be taken lightly - but if everyone (not just bloggers) crumbled at every piece of criticism, we wouldn't get anywhere in life.

Conversely, it's one thing to write satire about a profession completely different from your own like, say, politicians, but should journalists really be criticising those who belong to the same industry? Who are doing exactly the same work, and are putting in exactly the same (if not more) hours? Even I got mildly annoyed when I saw Vogue's Sally Singer write, 'Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour: Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style.' But then I remembered that the quote came from a publication which dug its own grave by becoming the most hypocritical, backward, stuffy, elitist and downright dull fashion monthly in today's media.

Personally, I hope The Sunday Times Style doesn't take the same route. Yes, publish satire. Yes, highlight the funnier side of life. Just let Francesca Hornak know that, no matter how good a writer you are, toilet humour belongs in a toilet.

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