That’s right. Make it about you rather than the actual story you’re covering, the publication or news outlet you work for, or — God forbid — your audience.
Call it the Kanye West Guide to Journalistic Advancement.
Yes, it’s egocentric — even narcissistic. But in a environment where legacy news organizations offer little in the way of job security, and where everyone under 30 who’s not famous seems to see themselves in a perpetual state of “pre-celebrity,” it’s only natural that individual journalists would increasingly view themselves as brands that need to be nurtured. Brands that demand shelf space in the form of TV face time, Internet followings and other career enhancers.
This “personal branding” approach to journalism has certainly worked like a charm for Julia Allison, the young journalist who first attracted attention with her affair with then-Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., which some claim helped to cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Now, at 26, she’s the toast of New York as a magazine writer and on-air commentator on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, E! and elsewhere. Although ridiculed by the New York Press as a “Faming Asshole,” Julia’s template for success is obviously an effective one.
For that formula in a nutshell, check out her blog. Or her photoblog. Or details of her romantic breakups (including e-mail exchanges) on other blogs. Or just read Gawker, where her every self-promotional effort is lovingly chronicled.
I’m sure the journalism and communications students I occasionally speak with are far more impressed by Julia’s roadmap to success than any drivel I can tell them about the Five Ws, Edward R. Murrow, and the founding fathers’ vision of the role of the fourth estate.
Like it or not, Julia’s dream is their dream today.
Forget the Five Ws. Today’s journalism is increasingly about one letter — “I.”
I should add that I don’t blame Julia for her fame. She’s a talented writer and obviously a driven person. I can’t begrudge her success any more than I can blame Britney Spears for the amount of coverage she receives.
She doesn’t control it, after all. The rest of us do.