I am someone who reads blogs. I love blogs. I was once so moved by the words I read on a blog that I sent a gift to a total stranger who'd suffered an unspeakably cruel loss. I have already pre-ordered my copy of Half-Baked, by the ferociously talented Alexa Stevenson of Flotsam. And I think that Ask Moxie's infant sleep advice is smarter than all the books of Drs. Weissbluth, Karp and Ferber combined. Obviously, I, too, am a mother with a blog, albeit one I post in erratically, and one whose biggest claim to fame until now is that it was the most popular blog at my parents' split level on Long Island.
What I am first and foremost is a storyteller. For almost 20 years, I've had the privilege of dropping into other people's lives and telling their stories, in books and newspapers and magazines. My Sunday Styles piece in the New York Times was a story about an interesting world that many Times readers had no idea existed: a world where hundreds of women are so serious about blogging that they would take a day out of their lives (and even plane fare and the cost of a hotel room for some) to actually take a seminar on how be better at it. And while bloggers themselves know that some of their peers are actually making money by blogging, that many are trying to "brand" themselves, and that major corporations and PR firms are taking notice, many non-bloggers still do not. I didn't know that until not too long ago. That's interesting. That's news.
Mine was not the first story about bloggers, nor will it be the last. It did not touch upon every amazing, transformative and innovative thing going on in the blogosphere. It was a window into a particular slice of life, and gestured to what that slice suggested about the larger community: that mom bloggers had evolved into a "cultural force to be reckoned with." That women "live online" these days and that bloggers are actually the new go-to parenting experts. That blogging had "opened up a whole new world" for some, who felt "empowered" by their new connections to corporate America. I mentioned that there is concern that some bloggers may have gotten caught up in the influx of giveaways and sponsored posts and swag because there is. And that's one part of the story I was telling.
The tone of the piece was light. That's because this was a Styles piece about a cultural trend, not an inquiry into the minutiae of the sub-prime mortgage crisis for the Economist. (If readers disagree with the placement of the piece, they should let the editors of the Times know.)
And here comes my shocking confession: Bloggy Boot Camp seemed like fun. The bare feet? The sippy cups? As a journalist, those are precisely the kinds of textual details that convey a scene to a reader. I included those details because personally, I found them charming, the very thing that made the mood at Boot Camp so unique and fun and, yes, girly. Tiffany Romero was warm and hilarious and clearly very passionate and savvy about social media. I thank her and everyone at Boot Camp for allowing me to observe and talk to them. My intent was never to vilify or belittle Tiffany, SITS, Boot Camp or the world of mom blogs at large. And I'm genuinely saddened that that intent, and my professionalism, could somehow be so grievously misconstrued and called into question by some within the blogging community.
The ferocity and scope of the response within the blogosphere to this single newspaper article suggests to me that there's a bigger story out there, a story that apparently very much still needs to be told. Ultimately, I hope the exposure in the Times and the resulting dialogue will allow both bloggers and journalists to move forward towards getting to the bottom of that story.
Finally, I'm well aware that many readers reacted strongly to the headline and the graphic. I saw neither of them before the story ran and while I suspect they were meant to be humorous, I'm sorry they've turned into such a lightning rod. In the meantime, I can say with certainty that the only children who have ever been neglected due to their mother's blog are my own, who I've barely had a moment for since the story was posted. I think they've watched Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs approximately 250 times. I hope you'll understand.
Disclaimer: In this post, I am speaking as a blogger and freelance journalist, not on behalf of the New York Times.