Cate YoungCriticism

Criticism/Uncensored: Why Fashion Bloggers Are Not Journalists, and How They Killed Their Credibility

Cate YoungCriticism
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Fashion bloggers are not journalists. There, I said it. But there are no absolutes, and I have qualifiers to add.

The battle between editors and bloggers has been raging for years as to legitimacy of online media as a viable news source. With major news stories being broken on Twitter, and newspapers moving online, it's pretty clear that news, if published online, is still news.

The truth is, the two terms are not exclusive. There are journalists who blog and adhere to all expected standards of ethics when publishing online, and there are bloggers who approach their work as journalists, doing their best to ensure that they work to earn their credibility in a digital space.

But let's talk fashion for a moment.

Fashion journalism exists. Robin Givhan and the Pulitzer Prize committee have made that a moot point of discussion. But are fashion bloggers fashion journalists? To that, I say no. Givhan won her Pulitzer in CRITICISM, and that is the point I'm trying to make.

Fashion bloggers have had to fight for their right to be recognized as force to be reckoned with. By democratizing fashion, fashion bloggers have been able to give a voice to the men and women who have always been the biggest consumers of that fashion, and allow them to help dictate the pace and direction in which trends move, rather than be dictated to, as in season past. This is awesome.

But they're fighting the wrong battle. Bloggers are not journalists. They are critics. A journalist/reporter is a person who objectively reports on news. A blogger is person who writes a blog. This is why opinion pieces and editorials are clearly identified as such in a newspaper. It's not the same thing, and bloggers should stop trying to pretend it is.

As bloggers, we provide our opinions. We make value judgement based on our preferences or experiences. Nothing about fashion blogging is objective, and objectivity is what defines hard journalism. Fashion blogging very simply doesn't fall into that category, because most fashion blogging is not fashion reporting.

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To make matters worse, fashion blogging has been inundated by advertising and sponsored posts, immediately calling into question the credibility of the content. Bloggers who used to be sincere and genuine, are now shrewd and concerned only with the freebies they can score. They've become all about the bragging and the minor internet celebrity, and it shows. There is a reason that journalists do not pay sources for news, and why media houses generally have very strict rules against accepting freebies or favours. No matter how objective you think you're being, transactions like that always colour the content of a post because they create a sense of obligation in the blogger. In order to be considered objective, a blogger should be beholden only to herself. (Or himself, naturally)

It is out of this attitude that sites like GOMI are born. Readers can tell when a fashion blogger has crossed over to the dark side, and it's that lack of self awareness that leads to the inevitable decline in quality of once popular blogs.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but fashion bloggers should NEVER have started accepting advertisers or sponsorships or freebies if they wanted to be taken seriously. The "great blogging revolution" presented bloggers as the gatekeepers of the fashion industry if you will, keeping designers and editors cognizant of the market they were serving, and reminding them who their customers actually were. But how can you claim to serve in that role if you're in bed with those same companies?

And this isn't to say that fashion blogging is inherently dishonest. It isn't. But if I know you are being paid to talk about a company or product, I immediately assume everything you have to say is inauthentic and fabricated. It is a large part of the reason why (with the exception of a select few) I have largely stopped reading fashion blogs. I want more reporting on trends and FASHION and less open disdain for readers and navel-gazing.

It's been YEARS, and there is still not concrete demonstration of the tangible ROI that blogs can provide. I have a very particular disdain for bloggers who are more about being seen than actually contributing to the conversation. You got invited to NYFW? Lucky you. I'm excited to hear your interpretation of the collections you saw. Oh wait, you only posted about what you wore and who you rubbed shoulders with? Not interested. Not even remotely. And the fact that this seems to be the prevailing attitude of the fashion bloggers of the moment is terrifying.

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Suzy Menkes' bitter takedown of the street style parade outside each fashion week demonstrates that patience for this "peacock" type is waning. The thing is, everyone is entitled to an opinion, (hence the popularity of personal blogs), but some opinions are more valuable than others. This is simply fact. I'm sorry if this offends, but the ability to dress yourself and not look silly is a skill most of us acquire by the time we hit 11 or 12. It does not in any way make us qualified to wax poetic about the professional aesthetic of designers who have suffered and slaved over their craft for longer than you knew what peplum was.

This obviously doesn't mean that a blogger cannot be informed. Take Tavi Gevinson or Susie Bubble or even Leandra Medine. Dedication to any craft will reap well deserved rewards. But a trend I've noticed that no one else seems to have picked up on is that the most successful bloggers parlay their blogging acumen into other careers. From Leandra's styling gigs, to Tavi's online magazine Rookie, the best bloggers use their success to do other things. The blogging bubble is set to burst very soon as more companies realize that there is little to no benefit that can be garnered from partnering with bloggers. Though a select few bloggers have accomplished it, it's unreasonable to believe that thousands upon thousands of bloggers can make a living solely off what amounts to the kind-hearted charity of a finite number of fashion companies. You need to get a real job. One that rewards the actual skills that bloggers have: their writing and their voice. That shit you can take that anywhere, independent of page views.

The truth is, over the years, bloggers have managed to degrade the little credibility that they managed to gain, and it's entirely possible they'll never get it back. It's something that I've been noticing for close to a year and have wanted to talk about for a while. It is infuriating to see fashion blogs and "personal style diaries" pop up overnight, virtual carbon copies of the one who came before, be showered with freebies simply for existing, or having the money to buy designer. It shows no passion or dedication to fashion, and it undermines the bloggers who are working so hard to hone their writing and their voice, and genuinely demonstrate their interest in participating in an industry that has often been inaccessible to most.

Perhaps I'm simply too old and crotchety to "get it". (Get off my lawn!) But I've fallen out of love with a medium that used to bring me a lot of joy, and there's nothing I can do to fix it. These thing happen I guess?

What about you? Do you think fashion bloggers are journalists or not? 
Do you think fashion bloggers have a credibility problem? 
And if so, how do you they can start fixing it? 
Where do you stand on bloggers accepting freebies? 

Let me know in the comments below!