Number One Rule of Mommy Blogging: Be Upfront With Your Readers
This is the second in a two-part series about mothers and blogging. You can read part one below.
Commenter Carrie of bilingualintheboonies.com:
Lisa of Crazy Adventures in Parenting:
I asked prominent and prolific Toronto blogger Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother to comment on this discussion -- specifically whether mommy blogging is (or can be) journalism, opinion, or a mix of both. Here's what she had to say.
That was such an interesting discussion. There's a broader discussion that's been going on about this issue, especially as it pertains to advertising and reviews and such - about whether there should be accepted practices, whether bloggers should have disclaimers on anything they write that is or might be construed as advertising or advertorial, and a broader discussion still about whether the momosphere is changing a bit, with more and more mom blogs oriented toward marketing.
My view, which I know is shared by many others, is that there needn't be set 'standards' - and that such a thing kind of goes against the spirit of the blogosphere - but that bloggers and mom-bloggers especially owe to themselves (and the community) to really think long and hard about their own best practices and commit to those.
A blogger who is really clear about the kind of writing that she does, and the kind of 'space' that she maintains, does right by herself and by her audience, because everyone knows what to expect, and can make a clear choice about whether to read her or not.
I have nothing against marketing-type mom blogs, but am not inclined to read them. I'm just not interested. But many other women love those blogs, and flock to them. It's a matter of audience.
A blogger's responsibility is, I think, to their audience, and specifically to the audience that they want. My 'rules' - for example, that although I have ads, I don't do reviews on HBM, and that I don't endorse anything that I don't have a special personal relationship with/personally support (I actually spelled it all out here) - I think, are clear to me and to my audience, but these aren't the same rules that, say, one of WalMart's elevenmoms would subscribe to. But, again, we don't have the same audience.
Basically, the thing that I think everyone agrees on is that the one most important rule - if you can call it a rule - is transparency. If a blogger is clear and open about what readers can expect at her blog, then she's doing right.
Whether blogging is all opinion, or whether it can be considered akin to journalism - again, depends upon the blog. The only relationship that my own writing has to journalism may be some similarity to op-ed, but that's about it. I don't 'report.' But there are some blogs that do something like what is now called citizen journalism, and many blogs that do a very good job with critical analysis of events. But most traditional mom-blogs fall into the genre of memoir, and sometimes op-ed.
That said, I don't think that anybody who takes themselves seriously as a writer -- regardless of where or how they publish -- should fall back on statements like 'it's just my opinion!' when they're discussing issues, events, people or organizations. There are still issues of integrity and reliability at stake, whether it's a blog or the WSJ.
The story you linked to - her recourse to the cry of 'opinion! opinion!' rang a little hollow. Well-articulated opinion is always well-supported opinion. (When I got caught up in that wet-nursing controversy, the issue of what counts as opinion was a significant part of what I found challenging - the person who wrote about me got the facts wrong. She told a story that misrepresented what happened, to make the story more controversial, and that, obviously, rankled. But she too fell back on the claim of "it's my opinion!" It was sorted out, but it was very, very frustrating.)
Note: Catherine Conners and I are among the contributors to Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the Mommyblog edited by May Friedman and Shana Calixte (Toronto: Demeter Press, May 2009).