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That New York Times Thing

Social Media is Ruining Our Relationships

When I heard about the now-infamous New York Times Style section article about so-called mommy bloggers at Bloggy Boot Camp, I located it and read it. The tweets and Facebook statuses that I read were so put-off by it that I just had to. Honestly, I expected that it would be a critical look at mothers who blog and the many conferences that they attend. Instead, I was assaulted with an eyebrow-raising headline and surprisingly snarky commentary. Then I understood why everyone was so upset.

This article comes complete with a graphic showing how moms who blog are neglecting their children everywhere from the home to the car to for the sake of technology and some grandiose self-promoting hobby. After all, they couldn’t possibly be taken seriously, right? Bloggers aren’t writers, right?

Wrong. So wrong. There are plenty of highly intelligent, educated, competent women who just so happen to blog. There are many well-researched, well-thought-out blogs written by mothers out there. There are also plenty of mothers who feel so disconnected that blogging and blogs provide a much-needed connection that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Of course, there are also plenty of blogs penned by women for themselves that don’t strive to be anything more than a daily journal or musings to amuse oneself.

The woman at blogging conferences often fall into the first two or three categories … and seldom the last one.

Now, I have been a journalist for nearly 10 years and I spent a good number of those years in a traditional newsroom. Today, I am a freelance writer who happens to blog. I am also a mother. Sometimes, my blogging and writing involve my kids. Like any good writer, I write what I know … and motherhood is a large part of that right now. I understand the news business very well … and this article, with the inflammatory graphic, seemed to be editorializing an issue. Save it for the Op/Ed page, New York Times. Seriously.

Therein lies the problem though: the graphic, which the writer likely had no hand in creating. In fact, my guess is that someone on the graphic end of things thought this would be fun or cute or tongue in cheek. But coupled with what seems to be snarky writing … well, it’s no wonder everyone got so upset.

The article, which I am not linking to because I don’t want to provide it with anymore pageviews than it already is getting, is basic reporting with little depth. It doesn’t look critically at the issue that it seems to be trying to bring up: what happen to the kids while moms write online? It’s in the styles section, so it’s appropriately fluffy … but would a fluff piece be written about more male-dominated conferences? It’s not likely.

If I were the editor on this piece, I would have taken a cue from my own newspaper editors and demanded a bigger, better, more researched article. I would have sent the writer back to get some real content with these questions in mind:

  • How are moms scheduling themselves? One interesting thing to look at is how many of these bloggers have full or part times jobs outside the home and how many work at home? Also, how many do not have a job other than their personal blog? Furthermore, when do these women actually work/write? How are dads involved in this?
  • Is this signaling an end to helicopter parenting? Or is this a faction of moms … how does it impact their involvement in their kids lives?
  • What are the different types of blogs by moms and how do they differ? What types of mom blogs are branding and why? Are all blogs working on branding? Why might that be important to some and not others? What service do mom blogs provide to readers?
  • Is the blog – and specifically the mom blog – a new offshoot of journalism? How are J-schools responding to this? How might they in the future (you might recall that Columbia recently announced that they have reached the required funding to begin creating the new Tow Center for Digital Journalism)?

My disappointment in the New York Times is staggering. This isn’t a throw-away article about some small-town gathering. It’s about a serious event with several business people in attendance. It should have been treated with some iota of respect. The New York Times isn’t some low-budget, low-circulation rag … or, at least, it’s not supposed to be.

Recently, a close friend asked me if my ideal career move was still to join the staff of the New York Times — something that I have wanted since I was a teenager. For as long as we’ve been friends, that’s all I have spoken of as my ideal staff job. But as I mulled her question and tried to find the answer, I was struck that my immediate yes has been replaced with hesitation, thought, uncertainty …

My answer, when it finally came was no. The world of writing, journalism and my understanding of it has changed so much in the last five years. My ideal isn’t to be in an industry or a company that continues to struggle against change, all while talking about how important it is.

Whereas newspapers used to provide an alluring immediacy that was so sexy, the internet does that today.  And a lot can be said for ability to go in-depth about topics, like magazines can. So, my ideal now? Somewhere between the online journalism world and the magazine journalism world is the place to be.

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