Getting personal

Tim Relf

Tim Relf, journalist and authorThis is a guest post by Tim Relf, a former journalistic colleague who also writes under the name TR Richmond.

His new novelWhat She Leftis out now.

Firstly, an apology.

Adam asked me, as a fellow RBI-er, to post on how technology is allowing new ways of working to emerge.

But I’d like to go off piste, because I figure he’s away so won’t be able to tell me off until he gets back.

What I’d like to talk about is personality – and how, in particular, blogging has allowed a lot of journalists to find theirs again.

When I began my career, personality was largely irrelevant. I – like my colleagues – was encouraged to be anonymous. It was the story that counted, not the person who happened to write it.

What mattered – and this was especially true in business journalism – was the name of the mag, not the journalist. That was what people believed in, engaged with, paid for.

With the exception of a few columnists employed to be the face of predictably polarised views, most journalists remained in the background. They got a byline if they were lucky.

Putting the personality back into journalists

Blogging has changed that. It’s put the personality back into journalists who forgot they had it.

Journalists, many of whom had forgotten how to have an opinion, are now being actively encouraged to express themselves and they’re relishing it. They’ve found a voice, and readers are loving it.

Blogs can be all sorts of things (no one seems to have nailed a conclusive definition yet), but the ones I most enjoy are those which one person writes because it’s that person’s preoccupations, personality and voice that comes through. Individuality counts.

One of my interests, for example, is books – and my favourite book blog is Scott Pack’s Me and My Big Mouth (with the exception of One Man and His Blog, incidentally, one of the best named blogs around).

At Farmers Weekly, our growing stable of bloggers are increasingly recognised for – and identified by – their individual personalities. Matthew Naylor is irreverent and witty. Phil Clarke, authoritative and analytical. If you want to know about cows and sheep (and why wouldn’t you?) Jon Long‘s your man.

I, meanwhile, do stuff on Field Day that my colleagues occasionally dub fringe and frothy. But just as journalists’ approach is changing, so subjects off limits even a year ago are now legitimate content, as blogs offer new ways to deliver content and make readers’ demands more eclectic.

An excess of personality?

There are some who argue that there’s too much personality out there already and the blogosphere has merely exacerbated this. What we want, so some people say, is more facts and informed opinion, not more personality.

But it is possible to have both – and a lot of good journalists traditionally have. It’s just that they never had the chance to showcase it.

Thank heavens blogging has given them the opportunity to.

bloggersBloggingField DayfwiJournalismJournalistsmatthew naylorMe and my big mouthPhil Clarketim relf