There’s an interesting piece on the Guardian’s food blog today about “professional food bloggers”, that is, people who started blogging and then went on to get book deals or paid writing gigs. The piece mostly looks at the realm of recipe bloggers and cook books, comparing the fresh voices of bloggers with the work of celebrity chefs.
I suspect that anybody who writes, dreams – even secretly – of doing it professionally. I kind of don’t buy the whole “I started a blog to share recipes with my friends and family” thing. Maybe, to start with, but if that was the case, why not just use email or Facebook?
Mind you, I also don’t get the whole idea of “community” and the assumption that everyone who has a food blog therefore automatically has something in common with every other food blogger on the planet. On the basest level we do, but that doesn’t create a community per se. Most of us also wear shoes but that doesn’t mean we all want to go shoe shopping together.
I came to the blogging process backwards, taking a gig as an editor at the now-defunct Well Fed Network early on and figuring I should probably have my own food blog as a companion to the pieces I was writing professionally. I tried to write “professionally” on my own blog because I did want those other gigs and wanted my blog to be a stepping stone to other work.
One of the walls we hit with the Canadian Food Bloggers Association was that a lot of people who joined didn’t really seem to understand what we were trying to do. The intention of the organization was to help blogs produce professional-quality work so that their own blogs could be their calling cards to get them professional writing work (because, as noted above, I don’t believe that people write in a publicly-accessible forum if they don’t want to get noticed). But those that were the most vocal just wanted the elusive “community”. I’m not even sure what that means. Given the horror stories that have been rehashed from the latest BlogHer convention, as far as I can tell “community” lasts only as long as everyone is doing the same thing, on the same level, and “community” turns to catty backstabbing once a couple of bloggers move beyond just wanting to write for family and friends and score themselves a book deal. Community can turn awfully jealous once one person seems to have loftier ideas than everybody else.
As evidenced with our recent decisions regarding TasteTO, I don’t think it’s (yet) possible to blog “professionally” and remain independent. Many mainstream media outlets are finally adding blogs and are giving some some credence and respect to what has been a much-maligned medium, but it’s taken the name and money behind those companies to do that. Amateur bloggers still have a mostly terrible reputation, and it’s only professional quality writing that makes individuals stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other blogs in the “community” who are all doing exactly the same thing.
For bloggers, the only hope of going professional, either as a blogger or moving on to other kinds of writing, is to be good enough to get noticed. For some of us, that has always been the goal. As it happens to more and more bloggers, I suspect that the “community” will not be as supportive as we’d all like for it to be.