Writer versus Journalist

In the age of social media, we often forget there is a difference between a writer and a journalist.  By definition, journalism is “writing events without at attempt at interpretation.”  (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1970), 459.)  I could discuss whether modern day journalists actually adhere to that definition, but I’ll save that post for another day.  A writer has a different definition.  A writer “practices writing as an occupation.”  Writing is defined as “to communicate with writing.”  (Webster’s, supra, 1032-1033.)

Bloggers are writers (unless, of course, they are writing for a newspaper or other journalistic purposes).  Writers are free to express their opinions.  One may not like their opinions, but that’s okay.  If you don’t like it, you can put your own opinions on paper, or just choose not to read anything else from that writer.  What happens all too frequently, however, is public thrashing and name calling, all behind the safety of a computer screen.

Case in point:

Mrs. Hall has her own blog, and she published her very personal opinions here.  If you don’t have time to read the blog post, a quick synopsis is that she monitors her sons’ Facebook accounts, and she is concerned that their female friends are posting pictures of themselves scantily clothed in their bedrooms.  Mrs. Hall doesn’t like her sons seeing these pictures, and has warned the girls that she will block them from her sons’ Facebook accounts if they post these pictures.  She says she gives no second chances, however, this writer notes that she does give the offending girls the opportunity to take offending pictures down.  Another blogger, Jerilyn Pool, wrote this rebuttal.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve watched on social media as this woman has been publicly flogged.  Nasty name calling  seems to be the order of the day.  I’ve written previously about my contempt for the nastiness on social media.  I’ve also written about the difficulty writers have of people reading into what is written things that are just not there.  I won’t rehash all that here, but to say that it would be a much nicer world if we could all play nice in the sandbox.

So this is my take on the situation from a writer’s perspective:  We almost never try to write about every single scenario possible. We write about what we see and feel at the moment.  For instance, I could write an article about the detrimental effects on children when their neighborhood school closes.  I could focus on the difficulty of poor families without transportation trying to get their children to and from school.  Even though I know the school district has financial problems and sees no alternative, I may not even bring that up in my article.  At a later date, I might write a second article about the financial devastation of the school district and why closing schools is seen as the only alternative.

Mrs. Hall obviously is having difficulty with what young women are posting on Facebook for her sons to see.  She wrote a blog post from that perspective, trying to solve that problem.  As a parent, she has chosen to write the blog post explaining her position in hopes that the young women will stop and think.  She has chosen to listen to “experts” who tell parents to monitor what their kids see on the internet.  Other parents may choose to “teach good principles” and let their children “govern themselves.”  I don’t think this mother is saying that if a man rapes a woman that she is responsible for her own rape because of the way she dresses, or what she posted on Facebook.  I think Mrs. Hall is trying to make a point to these young women that there is a better way to get attention, and to point out to her sons that it isn’t appropriate for them to see their female friends in skimpy clothing posing in their bedrooms (where I’m sure they wouldn’t be allowed to be in person).  As a writer, I can tell you first hand that people read into my articles and blog posts things that just aren’t there.  Mrs. Hall is saying, “Hey, girls, it isn’t appropriate for you to post skimpy pictures for my sons to view. If you do, you’ll be blocked.”  Six months from now, Mrs. Hall may choose to write a blog post about how young men should appreciate and treat women.

Don’t put words in this woman’s mouth.  She’s a mom.  She’s trying to teach her sons what is appropriate to view and what is not.  In the process, she’s trying to wake up a few girls to the fact that they are beautiful inside and out, and that they should cherish their bodies, not flaunt them for the world to see.  If you don’t like what she says, that’s okay.  THIS IS MRS. HALL’S PERSONAL BLOG.  You don’t have to like it.  If you wish, write a rebuttal on your own blog.  It is not appropriate, however, to drag this woman’s name into the mud and slime that is the social media.  At least accept that she is a mom doing what she feels is best for her sons. Cut her some slack, for crying out loud!  She is entitled to her opinions.

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