Sunday, October 28, 2007


"Not too long ago only the giants of the mainstream media world—the Tom Wolfes and the Joan Didions—were bona fide media personalities. It was a class you aspired to, and few reached. "

So says an article by Doree Shafrir, "Fame and Obscurity at the New York Times," published in the New York Observer. "That was before anyone with a blog and a Flickr account could burrow into a writerly niche and, if all went according to plan, come out burnished by the soft glow of Internet fame. "

Oh, sigh, for that soft glow! But enough about me; the article goes on. To summarize the last century of journalism: "First came work, then came the brand."

Now, however, we must all be branded--an idea Shafrir traces to the 1997 article "The Brand Called You" by Tom Peters. And that includes journalists and writers.

Until the 1970s, the NY Times used bylines for only a few, front-page story reporters. Today, young tyros are hired and positioned because of their names and the following they've built up through blogs and networking sites.

I've been hearing agents and editors talk about branding and platforms since I started going to writing conferences six years ago. I keep hoping such talk will become passe. It seems to have gone mainstream and become part of the conventional wisdom that all writers must now learn. . . surely that's the last step before obsolescence?

The article is thought-provoking and touches on many elements of our me-culture. This quote stuck out:

"Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway, who wrote in 2000 that personal branding is “distasteful for being blatantly ambitious, sneaky and superficial.” . . .

"Today, being “blatantly ambitious” has different overtones; we live in an era in which we’ve convinced ourselves that nearly any behavior is okay, as long as we’re up front about it. The only thing worse than blatant ambition, after all, is false modesty."

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