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Are We a Bunch of Amateurs?

johnaugust.com -- Professional Writing and the Rise of the Amateur

This is from a really interesting, really long lecture given by the guy who wrote the screenplay for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (among other prominent screenplays and things of merit).

And that’s when we got to the heart of the matter: she envied the blogs. On some level, she envied Ain’t It Cool News, because they were able to report on rumors and speculation without the same burdens as The Hollywood Reporter. The trade papers have an unspoken contract with the readers that they are only going to report the verifiable facts. The blogs of the world don’t, and because of that, they can get away with a lot more.
(the remainder of this anecdote is after the jump; hit +EXPAND to see)

I'm filing this under both "Literature and A(k)ademia" and "Fa(k)t" because August is picking apart a fairly esoteric and nebulous distinction in the interest of clarifying some brass tacks that pin that distinction to the everyday world. That, and it's a distinction I worry about a lot: Am I letting my standards slide and saying "Hey, it doesn't matter, it's just crap I'm posting to the Internet"? Why on earth would I take a column that will be printed on newsprint, and *maybe* read by a thousand people, so seriously and then blow off a blog post that will be seen by ~8,000 folks? 'cause the newsprint folks will pay me a few cents per word? Am I really that cheap?

We had a good conversation about her decision to include the piece, and the challenging distinction between capital-J journalism and what happens on the internet. Ultimately, she revised the piece to remove the link.

But what I didn’t tell her, but I’m going to tell you now, is that I think it was incredibly unprofessional for her to have posted that piece in the first place. It was ridiculous that it took me calling her for her to agree to take it down.

Coming back to the issue of professionalism: There’s no question that she’s a professional journalist in the classic sense. She’s a paid editor at one of the most respected industry newspapers. She can’t turn around and say, oh, but in this context, I’m just a blogger. You can’t hold me to the same standards.

That’s really Thesis #3:

You don’t get to pick when you’re going to be professional, and when you’re going to be amateur.