The media and the mommy blogger

Categories: Hacking Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Working? Living?

8 comments

There’s a fair amount of outrage right now over the New York Times piece that ran this weekend: Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.

In the article, the writer attended Bloggy Boot Camp — a blogging and social-media how-to conference for women — and ended up offending bloggers across the country with what some people saw as snarky quips and condescending comments about the very thing that keeps their families afloat.

FYI, I will DEFINITELY have a session at Type-A Mom Con on dealing with the media,” tweeted Kelby Carr. And don’t we already have enough that we make ourselves feel guilty about w/o ANOTHER MOTHER pouring it on?” asked Angela England. “Mothers are perhaps easiest/largest target, but women in general subject to unreasonable scrutiny,” pointed out Julie Marsh, also known on Twitter as Momslant.

I’m straddling a fine line here, but as both a journalist and a mom blogger I think that the problem has less to do with being a mom, and more to do with being a blogger.

Three small things I have to mention about the way things work at a big-name newspaper, things I haven’t seen mentioned yet in any of the reactions I’ve read so far. First, the writer almost never has anything to do with the headline. Second, anything that runs in the New York Times (or any other major metropolitain publication) goes through several layers of editing — much of it without the writer’s input — before the piece hits the page. And, third, the writer rarely, if ever, has any input into the accompanying graphics or photos, and usually doesn’t even see them until the article is published.

That said…

At Mom-101, Liz points out that the agenda for the blogging conference skewered in the article included things that wouldn’t be out of place at any tech conference anywhere: things like search-engine optimization, creating an effective media kit, driving up page views, defining one’s brand.

“I know I wasn’t there and all, but here I’m wondering — how is the agenda here any different than that at any tech conference anywhere, and why does that warrant a mention in the Times?” she asks. “Oh wait… because moms were there.”

Well… yes and no. Yes, because moms are a hot commodity right now, a coveted demographic, and traditional media were slow to get on the blogging bandwagon. But there’s also a disconnect between what many mom bloggers do (offer up valuable information, perspective, and networking) and what many people think they do: Why would “that kind of content” (personal, the assumption is, and probably in TMI-type detail) warrant SEO optimization or a media kit?

Journalists are supposed to be unbiased and impartial, and there’s an ongoing battle between the newsroom and the ad department over the way ads are increasingly affecting the presentation of the news. So I wonder: If more bloggers turned down requests from companies who insist on undisclosed, positive reviews of their products, maybe the mainstream media would take them more seriously?

Personally, I thought the illustration that ran with the article was far more offensive that the article itself. (Take a look.) It showed harried moms neglecting their cranky, crying kids in favor of their computers and smart phones at every turn — underscoring the misconception that all moms blog in order to escape their unrewarding, isolated stay-at-home lives. No image of a mom trying to pay the bills. No image of a mom at or on the way to her office. No image of a mom with teens or tweens. No image of a mom trying to juggle work and family.

I think that illustration, and not the story, is a better example of the ignorance and attitude that moms — and mommy bloggers — are up against.



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8 comments so far...

  • I agree with many of your points, but this article is just one in a series of condescending pieces on mom bloggers. What I personally find most offensive is that a professional blogging conference was covered in the Style/Fashion section. Why isn’t the coverage in tech or business? The writing itself was fluff and does more to harm the image of women in media than most mom bloggers could ever dream of. Perhaps we would be taken more seriously if writers who cover conferences for women would leave out references to sororities, tutus, minivans and “girly bonding.” Please.

    I think there are plenty of bloggers turning down undisclosed, positive reviews. In fact, I think most of us are. Are there “bad apples?” Yes. But that’s true in traditional media outlets as well. Mom bloggers aren’t the first to be given swag and trips. We won’t be the last. Yes, moms are the hot topic. But it would be nice to get some intelligent coverage for our business sense, savvy marketing skills and ability to rally resources in times of need.

    Christy  |  March 15th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

  • I agree that the illustration probably provoked a lot of the anger, along with the headline. No mom wants to be accused of ignoring her child, and the story really didn’t go much into that idea — that blogging could get in the way of family time — at all.

    Kate  |  March 15th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

  • Reactionary? I wouldn’t agree with that. I think my post and others are fair responses. I totally agree that the writer probably had nothing to do with the headline, which is why I hold the NY Times itself accountable.

    Having said that, there is still no excuse for the NY Times or any other media outlet to continue to bash women in general, and sometimes mothers in particular, for not sticking to their “mommy” roles. The headline suggested mothers who are interested in building their businesses and maybe making a buck were neglectful, egocentric mothers. Fathers doing the same thing would be described as entrepreneurial breadwinners.

    And, in my opinion, the way mothers are described is just an extension of how women political candidates are described by MSM. Sexism is sexism.

    Joanne Bamberger aka PunditMom  |  March 15th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

  • Joanne, that’s a bad, late-night word choice on my part… I meant “posts written in reaction to the article,” not “reactionary” in the political sense.
    – Lylah

    Lylah  |  March 15th, 2010 at 6:48 pm

  • I just got into a discussion about the way mainstream media — particularly newspapers — pursue moms in terms of marketing and advertising while being condescending or dismissive in terms of news coverage, and that brought be right back around to this post. So I’ve expanded it a bit on my own blog, http://WriteEditRepeat.blogspot.com. But here’s the gist:

    Yes, moms are a hot commodity right now — a demographic that marketers and advertisers pursue to such an extent that mainstream media outlets are either creating niches that specifically target moms or buying up existing websites that do so (sometimes excluding fathers in the process). But at newspapers in particular, many editors still view blog posts as something less important than what appears on the printed page, despite the obvious advantages of being able to post online (immediacy, unlimited space, the ability to target specific readers, the ability to link to sources and background info without cluttering up the story with sidebars, etc…).

    Also: While no one disputes that there is some extremely well-written blogs out there, there’s an ongoing discussion/argument in the newsroom about whether blogging can be considered journalism, as well as some fear over the feeling that professional, trained journalists are obsolete or easily replaceable. There’s also a disconnect between what many mom bloggers do (offer up valuable information, perspective, and networking, as Liz points out in her great post at Mom-101, to which I’ve linked above) and what many people think they do: Why would “that kind of content” (personal, the assumption is, and probably much too much so) warrant SEO optimization or a media kit?

    About a year ago, I started blogging about parenting issues for a newspaper, and I can’t even count the number of people who react negatively when I say I blog about parenting (”Don’t you miss the news?”). But if I say “I took over the former parenting reporter’s column online,” they’re approving. I think that attitude extends from the mainstream media to the online world, in many cases.

    Lylah  |  March 17th, 2010 at 11:12 am

  • While I agree with some of the points, and I am not blogging enough for parenting stuff but…I do think that as a parent you need to take the time to be with your kid(s) and then do the writing/blogging when you have the time/free time (ha ha, I’m funny) to do it in.

    Although I am very inspired by the thousands of moms who do write blogs to make a living. In that case, then yes, mom/writer does need to say to her children/family, hey if you want dinner(or whatever) this week then let me take the time to write so we can have the money to do it.

    I do think blogging does help brand a company as it’s free publicity for products and brands out there, but have yet to actually do it myself (not that I haven’t tried, just didn’t get anywhere with it, and my blog doesn’t really do those things, but promote our event, which is a seperate thing)

    Gia Saulnier  |  March 18th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

  • I think this is a very thoughtful and fair assessment. I agree, the headline/artwork are the most inflammatory aspect and definitely colored my (and others’) view of the piece as a whole.

    I also agree that more bloggers having high standards for their review process would do a great service to the community at large - but I continue to resent that the advertorial bloggers remain emblematic at all in the press of the parenting blogger community at large.

    Sometimes I long for the days that we found readers through blog rings and reciprocal links, and the had no idea at all what SEO even meant. You know, back in the days that we walked uphill to school in the snow. Both ways.

    Mom101  |  March 19th, 2010 at 11:11 am

  • Part of the problem is that the industry of journalism has gotten far away from its traditional role. And there’s a big disconnect between what people think it is and what it actually is nowadays.

    SKL  |  March 21st, 2010 at 12:40 am