More thoughts on personal journalism

Not much reaction to my earlier post on personal journalism. Either it’s a dumb take on things, too much like other things I’ve said previously, too obvious (though I kind of like the term “personal journalism,” but maybe it’s the wrong term.

I was away from the computer for most of the day. I half expected to come home and find my mailbox full of slams from critics. I can think of several reasons to question the whole notion, or at least mainly the underlying premise.

For example — personal expression in media isn’t something that is new or even disappeared for any length of time. I thought of that today while reading some Charles Bukowski and listening to Johnny Cash, two mean who I think would have been fantastic bloggers. You can probably think of other artists from music and books who specialized in deeply personal expressions.

Though what I’m talking about isn’t really about personal expression. It’s more about personal connection. In fact, personal expression probably runs counter to operating within solid journalistic standards. A good personal journalist doesn’t hide behind the institution, is more exposed as a person, but isn’t writing about himself or his personal experience. He isn’t trying to lose himself in an inverted pyramid, but remains dedicated to sense of community and civic obligation.

Also, so far, I’ve been short of workable examples of what I mean. Tish Grier offers up Orato as a possible example, and while it’s a pretty neat citizen journalism site, I’m not sure it quite gets at what I mean. First, it’s citizen journalism, and I’m trying to define a new genre of professional journalism (if such distinctions will even mean anything in a decade or less). The other thing is the site specializes in first-person reporting, and I’m not sure personal journalism equates with first-person accounts, though I imagine the words “I,” “me” and “we” would crop up often enough in personal journalism.

I’m pretty sure media is getting more personal, more personally connected, more conversational, but whether that equals personal journalism overtaking public journalism is a matter of debate. Given more time to think about it, personal journalism is, if it is real, just another genre of journalism, like narrative journalism or enterprise reporting.

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3 thoughts on “More thoughts on personal journalism

  1. Thanks for the link to the ojr piece…

    I think you’re right that “personal journalism” could be a new genre, and that it has the potential to become popular because of a combination of personal voice and solid reporting–in a way that made the stuff of Hunter S. Thompson popular (but not quite the same as Thompson’s “gonzo” journalism.)

    When Jay Rosen was tossing around the ideas for, we exchanged a few emails on it, and I mentioned to him that I thought, at this point in time, we *should* be trying, and supporting, new ideas, experiments, and models of journalism. It’s really a very exciting and hopeful time, if you think about it (and don’t get too bogged down in the revenue stuff.) A lot of very good things are going to come out of this–perhaps even a new openness vis a vis information. If you think about it, this is something we might very much need in the not too distant future.

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