Stunt Journalism

How far would you go to write a story that gets read? Is it still journalism when you are the story? At what point is it a journal, like a diary or log, rather than a news story? How far will a stunt journalist go before the story is about the danger of performing your own, untrained and irresponsible stunts?

When did journalism get so physically degrading?

Immersive journalism is not new. In 1887, the reporter Nellie Bly feigned insanity in order to be committed to a New York City insane asylum. Her stay resulted in a landmark undercover account of appalling conditions at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Eighty-odd years later, Hunter S. Thompson wrote a manic first-person account of the 1970 Kentucky Derby, which more or less invented the genre now known as Gonzo journalism.

If the modern stunt essay has a film antecedent, it’s Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 hit documentary chronicling his own attempt to gorge on nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days. However jokey it seemed, the stunt served the public interest in clear ways: Spurlock drew national attention to the obesity epidemic, and McDonald’s discontinued its Super Size option shortly after the film premiered. Less journalistic value is accomplished by ingesting nothing but alcohol for a week. Duy Linh Tu, the journalism professor, wonders whether the term “stunt journalism” is a misnomer. “I don’t think all of this is journalism,” Tu says. “I’m not making a quality judgment. It’s all content…. [But] you won’t be able to build a long-term journalistic organization pulling these stunts.”

This is an old journalistic instinct—don’t look for a story, be the story—funneled through new media channels. It’s not the recklessness that’s new (war reporters have long put themselves at risk) but the desperation. Still, what the stunt piece and the personal essay have in common is that the best writing stems from horrible experiences—and that neither of them are going away soon. The stunt craze is liable to change how would-be journalists go about breaking into the industry. Or maybe it already has.

Source: Are We Living in a Golden Age of Stunt Journalism?

Modern Chain Mail

modern chain mail

Do you remember old fashioned chain mail, the promises of fame fortune and death threats to you and your family (loved ones)?

Modern chain mail has taken a new twist. Now we have to reply, friend and follow people in order to save the world or at least save the life of someone deathly ill or suicidal.

At least these are easier to ignore. It was kind of spooky not sending on those old, retro chain letters. I always did feel creepy about throwing them out… just in case something did happen.  These modern chain letters all sound just too phoney to me. How can I possibly save this boy from committing suicide just by passing this along to strangers, from strangers. So I don’t feel even a twinge of creepiness.

But… could you use a modern chain letter and come up with a really creepy story, something unique?

I Think Jon Morrow Hasn’t Got it Right Quite Yet

I’m tired of blogging advice, no matter how well meant it may be. It’s an endless, bottomless pit and most people think blogging for a few months makes them an expert. If you want to learn about blogging only listen to the people who really are successful at it. (However you measure success, not everyone thinks it involves money).

I listened to a webinar by Jon Morrow today. I didn’t hear anything new really. Nothing I hadn’t picked up from reading blogs online or listening to Jon Morrow’s other video posts about guest blogging. The almighty great secrets of great blogging are not so hard to find, if you listen and think for yourself.

I’ve been writing online and publishing my own blogs for more than ten years. I’m not a popular blogger, mostly because I’m just not that socially committed. I like being a hermit for 20 of the 24 hours. I like the quiet, I like having my own thoughts and not having to consider how other people will perceive my every hand gesture, facial expression or fashion sense. I’m an introvert and proud.

So, why do I still have some silly longing for fame and popularity? I think I just want some kind of recognition or approval. (I have Father issues which I won’t get into). I want people to know who I am and think I’m a somebody. Not for a long time. I want to crawl back under my rock when it suits me. Anyway… for those who want some quick insight here are my current thoughts abut blogging for fame and fortune.

First – Stop thinking so much about link building, SEO and viral marketing. None of that will work if nobody likes you. You have to start with a base of popularity before people will be interested in linking to you. You have to be recognized as worthy before the search engines will boost your site. You also have to be someone people think is important before they are going to pass around your post links.

So, you need to look at connecting with others, networking. Jon Morrow suggests you start at the top. I think you should start with yourself instead.

Look at the bloggers in your niche or related niches. There are always good blogs which aren’t getting much notice. Approach them, invite them to link build with you. You can build yourself into an authority, a popular blogger in your niche by becoming someone who other bloggers go to. Draw more bloggers to you. You get readers, you get links and you become the blogger everyone knows.

Then we come to the plan of action. Conversion is the term Jon Morrow gave it and he rates it as the last thing in his three step plan. I’d put it first. I think of it as incentive and bribery and giving people a reason to notice you once they get there. It’s also a chance for you to do some backwards promotion while gathering supporters and converting browsers into subscribers and fans of your site. You think that’s a lot to ask for?

Here is the scenario I dreamed up… Ask a print author for a review copy of their book. Review the book on your site. But, don’t stop there. Run an event around the author and his/ her book. Draw people in with a contest, winner gets the book. Your cost is mailing out the book and your own time. That’s all. But, you’ve got people interested in your site, you’ve given an author free promotion for their book, you’ve run a contest/ event AND you’ve given people a reason to come back to your blog for your next event.

It’s nice if other bloggers will link to you and promote your event. But, don’t make it a necessity. After all, you’re already holding out the carrot (the book to the contest winner). Let that lure them in. Also, let the author of the book get in on promoting the event and promoting their book through you. Run an interview with them at the very least. Quite likely they will also run a link to your event, it’s about them and their book after all.

I think you need to have your plan for this conversion in place before you begin focusing on networking with popular bloggers and getting them interested in you. You want the readers attracted this way to find something once they get to your site. It’s not enough to attract visitors and traffic – you want to keep them.

When you do approach popular bloggers think of something you can do for them. Check out their site, click on links and give it a general test drive. It’s not a big challenge to find an error, a broken link, a typo, etc. I send people notes about stuff like this on Twitter. I almost always get a thank you reply back. This is a decent opening you can use to start up a conversation. You’ve done something to help them, even something small like this is something real.

Read their posts and the comments they make. With your unique kills and knowledge and ingenuity… see if you can offer them a solution to a problem. Or, give them a fresh idea, fresh input. Someone who comes up with a solution to a problem is someone who will get noticed and be remembered.

Once you have your foot in the door, ask them a question. Ask something about a post they wrote. Ask them about an ebook they promote on their site. People like to talk about themselves. Just don’t ask a stupid question. There are stupid questions. Don’t ask where you can get their ebook if the link is on the front page of their site. Be real, sincere and interested in them.

When it comes to social media, go back to being social. Don’t try to force more keywords into your posts. Don’t try to come up with headlines that might go viral because they are dramatic or shocking or just plain rude and obnoxious. Talk to people, as if they are actually people you would talk to. Like me, people are getting tired of blogging advice, marketing advice and all the rest. Stop being a marketer for awhile and see how just being social, like someone part of a community, works for you.

Jon Morrow thinks guest posting is the way to go. I’m cynical on that. I’ve had too many awful requests from people who want to write guest posts. I don’t take any of them seriously now.

I do think you can still make your own fame and fortune without relying on just guest posting. But, I’ve been known to write a few and I still write for network sites – which is almost the same as guest posting, you just get paid for it.

Think about the blogs you read, the Twitter posts you are most likely to forward… then apply those feelings to yourself and the way you blog. Would you read your own content? Is it flat? Read about copy writing, find tips that make your blog posts more readable – easier on the eyes and memorable too.

So there’s my grand advice on the adventure of blogging. Subject to change without notice. The technology changes, the plans evolve but so far, there are always more people hoping to find fame and fortune writing at their keyboard.

Good luck… or best wishes, to us all.

Do you Want to be Famous?

Getting to Know You #1 from We Are Canadian Blog

Would you like to be famous?

Answer from the forum moderator:

I personally would never want to be famous! I am not a “like it in the spotlight” kind of person. I am quite happy to make friends and interact on a one on one basis but all eyes on me is not at all where I feel most comfortable! When I was in high school I hated those presentations teachers love so much! It was torture to stand at the front of the class with a bright red face, watery eyes and shaky voice!

For myself, I would like to be famous but on my own terms. Not everyone famous is an actor or actress with their face all over the media. I’d be famous for something I did, like writing a series of great books. But be reclusive. Give the odd interview when my new book comes out. If you aren’t pushing yourself in the spotlight you won’t get as noticed. Writers can be famous and yet not have photos of their cellulite published in gossip rucking magazines.

How about you? Do you want to be famous? Do you think you could handle full on fame with flash bulbs popping out of the woodwork at you? Or do you see yourself having a quiet sort of fame? Famous and yet modest and quiet in the background.

Write a Witchy Spell

First of all, this is a writing exercise, something to try in order to start your flow of words. Although you can write a Witch spell, you should not believe writing and then saying the words will make things happen as you want them to. Real magic comes from inside of yourself. I think using a spell (especially one you have written yourself, one you have put your heart into and given time to consider each word) can bring about your own magic through focusing you fully on what it is you want.

Having said that… write a Witchy spell. Think about what you want from the spell: love, hope, fame, fortune, a new car? Begin by calling on some outer force like the four directions, the elements, the moon, your Grandmothers.  Pick something that suits you. Then write the words to say what you are asking for and give some information about the who, what, when, where, why and how. Keep it light, just have fun. Give it rhymes, rhythm and a pattern in the words themselves. Speak them aloud to see how it all sounds. Change anything that feels in the way. Have fun with it.

Whispers to the wind

Shouting into the fire

As I call out my ire

Dancing over the dirt

Walking in the puddle

As I feel in a muddle

Clear my thoughts

Help me to see

Me as I want to be.

How does mine sound?

Want to read a bit more about spell writing?

Know Thy Less-Than-Perfectness

I am a social geek/ nerd/ cave person. I know this about myself and I am okay with it. I can live with being semi- social phobic and not all that chatty in large groups of unknown people. Some would call it shy. It isn’t really. It’s more like intimidated and growing up polite – not cutting into the conversation. (One of my pet peeves, which I do not talk about, is being interrupted when I am trying to say something).

Anyway, this is one part of my character which does not go well with blogging, the promoting part of blogging. Some say they are shameless self-promoters. This is not me. I am more like a shy, rebellious self promoter. Half of me does not even like all that advertising/ marketing/ commercial and sales stuff and the other half thinks it would be much nicer to just keep writing and not bring attention to myself. This does not work really well. It is detrimental to several of my blogging and fame seeking goals.

Still, I know myself. I know where my difficulties/ challenges are. Do you?

What is your challenge as a blogger? I won’t assume you are all in if for the fame, like myself. (I will pretend I’m not, but I know I want the glory and gusto of fame, deep in my quietly shy heart). Anyway, is your challenge something personal or something like spelling which can be helped with proofreading (unless you are one of those anti- rule reading types who thinks proofreading is for sissies).

We all have these little challenges. No one is perfect. No matter how perfect you think someone else is, just ask them, if you catch them in an honest mood. Everyone can tell you their story of woe and less-than-perfectness.

The Sparkling Silver Toad

There’s a weird looking toad in the park. You see it as you are walking along, it catches your eye cause you’re sure you have never seen a sparkling silver toad before. Not one that is actually alive anyway. At first you wonder if some kid is pulling a prank or has spray painted the poor thing. But, no, it seems to be a perfectly healthy, alive and real, toad.

What an amazing find. You could be rich and famous for this discovery. Just think of all the places that would like to see such a creature as a sparkling silver toad.

All you have to do is pick it up and take it. But, you’re not all that fond of toads and creepy crawlies in general. Still, this could change your life, for the better. You steel your nerves and the ick factor and pick up the toad. It’s not so bad. The toad isn’t even squirming or trying to jump out of your hands. Which is a good thing cause it is still creepy even if it’s not currently crawlie.

Walking along to the park exit you start to feel the toad really isn’t all that bad. Not so different from holding a cat really. Just different skin and really, it’s about the size of a kitten. Not cute, you wouldn’t go that far. But, not as yucky as you had expected. In fact, thinking about the fame and fortune to come… all that stuff you could pay off, buy or do… You raise your hands and look at the toad, face to face. That big mouth looks like a big smile. His toad eyes are kind of unblinking but there is a calmness about him, not pretty but kind of nice. You lean in and impulsively kiss the toad.

With a flash of light…. the toad turns into a man. He isn’t still in your hands but standing on his own two feet right in front of you. That’s a little bizarre.

He introduces himself and gives that old fairy tale about being a handsome Prince turned into a toad by a so called Wicked Witch after he ran over her cat with his sports car. He still doesn’t sound very sorry about the whole cat thing. The only real addition to the usual fairy tale is that you have the power to turn him back into a silvery toad again. Interesting… he just kind of glosses over that, assuming you will be all too glad to have found a handsome Prince for yourself.

He talks about how he will marry you and give you access to his castle, cars, and let you have some cash to spend each month. You can pay off your stuff, take some trips and all of that. But, with him and from what he chooses to give you.

So, now comes the big question… Do you keep your handsome Prince, get married and wander off into his sunset? Or, do you turn him back into a silver, sparkling toad and get your own fame and fortune leaving him as a toad for the rest of his life?

Girl Band Drummer God

You’re the drummer in an all girl band. Life is great with fame and fortune and fun. Fan letters from guys, all claiming to be in love with you and the icky ones you just ignite in the fireplace and ignore. Best of all as a drummer with all that upper body regular work out, you have boobs of steel! You’re only 20-something and having the greatest adventure in your life.

The only problem is the band. The other girls have had enough and want to quit, break up the band and go off and have babies and husbands and houses. Whatever order they end up with. You want at least one more year of being the girl band drummer god. It’s just too soon to give it all up now. How can you convince them to stick with it, at least one more year?

Rich or Famous?

Someone grants you one wish… you can choose to be famous or you can choose to be wealthy… you only get one or the other. If you choose fame there are no chances you can become rich, no matter what schemes you may try. If you choose to be wealthy you will remain an everyday unknown type of person for the rest of your life. Which do you pick, fame or riches, and why?