Molly Gamble

Month: September, 2013

What you set out to do

Many writers might feel like they’re undergoing some type of identity crisis these days. Where do they want their work to go? Between print versus web, blogging versus reporting, Twitter versus longform, there’s many choices and different textures to each.

Cord Jefferson, one of my favorite writers, was on the Longform Podcast this week. His answer here reduces these modern-day complexities to something really wonderful and worth remembering.

“How do you define yourself in this world? Are you a journalist? Are you a writer? Are you, like, a memoirist? Are you an entertainer?”

“When people ask me what I do, I just tend to say that I’m a writer. And that’s what I set out to do. I put ‘writer’ on my taxes. There’s a lot of joy in that for me. There’s a lot of joy in kind of — I just sit down and stare at a blank page and write stuff.

The fact that I haven’t been forced to pick one path or choose one genre of writing thus far in my career is something I’m actually pretty happy about. In a way, I might be a little disappointed if I was latched to one genre or style of writing.”

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Object of distraction

One of the things I like most about Louis CK is his moral outrage. His eyes widen. He gets revved up about dysfunctional stuff people do every day and brush off as “normal.” It’s almost like he said this as a public service announcement. It’s so spot-on, just like his entertaining diatribe about people, cell phones and flying. Put your phone down. Look around. Be a human. Learn the color of people’s eyes. I love this.

This is not sponsored content

Sponsored content is on the Federal Trade Commission’s radar. The agency is holding a workshop in December that could strengthen rules about advertisements that resemble editorial content. It’s most concerned about whether consumers are able to differentiate the two, especially on their smart phones, Google search results and social media feeds.

Sure, sponsored content might have the potential to deceive, but most of us are more intimately aware of its potential to just plain annoy. This goes for readers and journalists alike. Back in 2010, the Los Angeles Times ruffled feathers when it ran full-page wraparound ad for the film “Alice in Wonderland” — as its front page. Insiders from the newspaper said business executives spearheaded the decision to publish the ad.

A front page with the headlines of the day or a fabricated front page with a picture of the Mad Hatter? One seems a bit more insulting to readers’ intelligence than the other, no?

On a separate but related note, The Onion targeted sponsored content a few months ago, hitting on advertisers that try their best to deceive readers but ultimately fail. This might be my favorite excerpt:

“See, when I’m reading an article and then I have to take a step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, the font, writing style, and overall tone is like the website I typically enjoy, but this is actually an advertisement for a car company,’ I smile and just keep on reading. It’s like a treat.”