Not to harp on Glenn, but I think this is actually an important general point: are bloggers amateur or professional? I think it’s past time we stopped equating “blog” with “amateur.”
In this post, Glenn defends his right to write about whatever he wants, which is a right I certainly support. He also says we shouldn’t use him as our only news source, which is commendable. However, he also says “And this is, as Eugene properly notes, an amateur activity.”
His very next post is a pointer to his TechCentralStation column.
He didn’t get the column gig because he’s a famous law professor. He got it because he’s a famous blogger. He’s not getting paid for Instapundit.com, but it sure has led to paying jobs. That doesn’t make it a professional pursuit, per se. Does it blur the line between amateur and professional? Of course it does.
He’s not getting paid?
It’s a good thing he’s not a boxer.
Well, one definition of professional is ‘Are you getting paid for it?’ That’s at least pretty clear. It does lead to situations where professional writers have amateur blogs, but at least one can be consistent.
One can muddy the waters slightly by changing the question to ‘Are you expecting to get paid for it?’ I think of this by lieu of extending the same definitions of programming – the work I did for the fly-by-night dot-com that never paid me was certainly professional work, despite the end result. There are people out there writing blogs that hope to find a publisher – I guess I’m okay with calling them professional bloggers.
Then, you end up with people like Wil Wheaton – when he published Dancing Barefoot, a collection of (re-edited and lengthened) entries from his wilwheaton.net blog, did that retroactively turn his blog in to a professional blog? I guess so.
What about Bill Maher? He has a blog, and it’s directly the kind of thing that he does for a living. Or Dave Barry, same thing? Both blogs act as marketing vehicles for their professional work – and so do Wil Wheaton’s and Neil Gaiman’s and so forth. And don’t you talk about the odd RPG sourcebooks you have your name in?
Which leads me to get cranky. If you get paid for writing the blog itself, it’s professional work. If it promotes work you get paid for, it’s marketing work. Anything else, it’s amateur, and power to the people.
Your definitions may vary, in both where lines are drawn and in usefulness. 🙂
I (usually) don’t write anything on this blog without thinking about the fact that I might someday pitch some writing to someone who’s read it. Let me put it this way: I believe it reflects on my professional standing as a writer.
Is it a professional venture? Nah. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable claiming amateur status either.
So… Anne Frank is a professional author?
I think the metric I’m going to settle on is “Any general audience work written by someone who habitually gets paid for writing general audience works is professional, regardless of whether they intend to sell it.” If Donald Knuth writes Star Wars fanfic, it’s still professional writing. It’s rules like these that get Jim Thorpe stripped of medals, but I’m in a ‘bright line’ sort of mood, today.