28 September 2006

What's in a name?

Reporter Linda Jones has blogged about identity. An interesting debate. Is a writer a journalist, a reporter, a hack or, well, just a writer? Her comment on the latter was" don't get me started!" As if somehow being a writer is something to sneer at.

Well, get this - I'm a writer. And proud of it. It best describes what I do. I've never been a reporter as I've never covered "news". I call myself a hack as a joke, and a journalist when it's convenient, because some people find that easier to understand - if I tell them I'm a writer they might think I'm a novelist, which I'm not (although maybe one day...)

But writer best describes what I do because not everything I write is for the press. I write a lot for businesses. I write for myself. And I write for publications. It's not to be sneered at - I earn a very reasonable living from it.

I hate it when people start creating hierarchies and distinctions, as if one is better than another. Or worse.

What does it matter anyway?


Anonymous said...

Hello. Thanks for the link.

My comment 'don't get me started!' wasn't sneering - it was sparked by the fact that my experience has been based around reporting, editing or subbing, and rightly or wrongly having it drummed into me that this didn't qualify me as a "writer".

I admire anyone who makes a good living writing. God, I'd never attempt to create a hierarchy, I was just interested in what people chose to call themselves.

But the 'don't get me started' comment was also inspired by the memories of some of the earnest young men and women I have met throughout my career.

They may've had a brilliant amount of confidence, but not necessarily the humility and skill, that I for one, happen to believe is needed for a career in getting on with people and writing about them or for them.

Believe it or not, there have been a few. But still I’ve never felt, possibly because of an initial lack of confidence, compounded by my early experience in journalism that I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer.

Unknown said...

Fair comment, Linda. I started out as a journalist and did my stint on various subs desks too. I've never done news (my editor at the time didn't think I was up to it!) but equally, I was never made to feel that I wasn't a writer.

Whatever you think about your confidence, you ARE a writer. Don't confuse that with humility or anything else. If you're working in the business of putting words on paper you are as much a writer as any of the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

To be honest with you publicly airing my thoughts on these labels has made me see I'm arguably being more than faintly ridiculous.

Now can we start on "blogger"? Oh no, better not. :)

Unknown said...

You know, interestingly, the other day I was having a conversation with our new cleaner. Freshly hired by Wordsmith HQ, Monsieur Mopp (yes, she's a he and French to boot), asked me what exactly I do. So I was trying to explain and said I'm an editor, a copywriter and journalist. The first and third he understood. But I couldn't remember the French copywriter so I got my Collins-Robert out and looked it up. The French definition is redacteur - exactly the same as for editor.

Sheesh! Kind of proves the point about labels being just labels... :)

Anonymous said...


Ooh get me!

Still they haven't even got a word for entrepreneur though :)