Using my [soon to be earned] degree in Journalism as well as my experience working and writing in the field, both for the Spectator and currently with the Seattle PI would help to demonstrate credibility and authority on my issue. Having access to people with years of experience and diverse histories bringing them to the similar act of journalism, I’ve gleaned a few ideas and philosophies regarding writing for a public audience. In addition, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the intersection of blogging and more formal news publications. Actually, it is this point of intersection where my own two worlds and desires come crashing together, leaving only the option of attempting to rebuild something new from the marled and scalding rubble. Thus, I am personally invested in looking at how personal narrative becomes universally relevant—or at least finds audience in another human being.
An editor at the Seattle PI recently told me of the unique opportunity the Internet begets for the literary-minded writer. “Forget the inverted pyramid*,” he said with defiance. Instead, the story should flow like a proper narrative. To draw the reader in and establish a personal connection is necessary for building an Internet readership. To create the seamless flow of ideas like the literary “page turner” may seem surprising coming from the mouth of a news editor at a major newspaper, but the plummeting popularity of hard-news style newspapers demands a change. In trying to move a daily print operation to an online only business, these ideas are at the front of journalists’ minds.
Furthermore, and after much deliberation, I began a blog myself. I’ve written about my hesitation to enter the vast digital world of empty words and unfounded photos, trying to find meaning in this apparent human desire to express the personal self. Somehow I thought the desire was kept to the circle of writers and photographers and painters, whose life passion is this translation of experience into tangible communication. Perhaps all that was missing was the possibility of space to fill, a medium to enter—or the courage to find said outlet before the ease and proliferation of at-home Internet access and blogging start-up sites.
*The inverted pyramid is the most formal structure in which to compile a news story. The most pertinent and important information goes at the top, words are kept to a minimum, they are blunt and precise with little or no artistry. The paragraphs are like sound bites, able to be cut and moved around at will and without a need for transitions. Invented when wire services were often intercepted mid-transmission or travel, this style sought to cut losses by assuming that if someone seized the messenger while passing on the story, those on the other side of the country would still get enough of the message.
Character: In addition to what I’ve mentioned before, I could list other academic papers I’ve written and articles I’ve published.
Sense: Most people are informed about the Internet and have a general knowledge about blogging. It’s probably safe to say that most people under forty actively use the Internet for sources of news, entertainment and for social networking. A large percentage of this demographic might even have their own blog. However, many people, though aware, may not have the understanding of journalistic rules when it comes to the Internet, or the internal struggle in the industry when it comes to digital publication. Furthermore, the depth of the literary analysis cited in this paper is probably not everyday reading for most people. So I will adopt an inclusive voice to invite the reader into the thesis by taking care to connect abstract ideas with the day-to-day reality of personal blogs—a commonplace on which we may meet, depart from and continually refer to.
Goodwill: Most of the ways in which I will establish good sense will also establish goodwill. I will take care not to talk at or down to the audience when explaining concepts, but with them by showing them what I mean and how it is demonstrated. Mostly, though, my voice will be infused with the sincerity toward the reader established as part of good character. The subject itself begets inclusiveness, as I’m trying to bolster the significance of a daily life.
Orangette, food blog:
Molly Wizenberg, the voice and life behind the experiences, tastes and photographs presented on her blog Orangette.
Shared Rhetorical Features
Since her beginnings as a food blogger in July of 2004, Wizenberg’s mini-essays have steadily grown in readership as demonstrated by the increase in the number of comments her words provoke. Some posts have, of course, drawn more than others, some seem to have marked turning points in the number of vocal readers. The highest number of comments rally around stories marking personal milestones in Wizenberg’s life: her marriage and subsequent dinner and honeymoon, announcing the publication of her first book and revealing she and her husband’s soon to be restaurant, Delancy. Her readers are thus stirred by the concrete events that make a life; they are fortified by the day-to-day musings, wit, personal memories and, of course, tastes making up the body of her blog.
Effectiveness of Writing for Audience
Wizenberg’s words resonate with her readers on a very personal level. Whether she and her readers share tastes, experiences or geographic proximity, comments take the form of congratulations, laudatory remarks on writing style or simple agreement in a specific love for, say, lobster and San Francisco. Wizenberg is, at the most fundamental level, telling a story. But the difference between her blog and other personal narrative blogs is that she offers people the chance to physically and emotionally take part in her experience. She leaves them with something tangible and lasting, something that will come to fruition hours, days or months later when the craving for a certain butterscotch cookie or céléri rémoulade surfaces. And it’s not just the craving but the possibility of entering such a warm and inviting world that inspires the act of memory, in turn assuring Wizenberg her audience will come by next Monday when she again offers a chair to her table.
Engaging Readers’ Emotions
Food is memorable and sensual and oftentimes seductive. Wizenberg elaborates on a taste by surrounding it with an inviting experience—often droll and sentimental with just enough irony to keep it respectable.
“If you’ve been reading for a while, you may remember that I have a thing for celery root. It’s sort of the Philip Seymour Hoffman of vegetables: pale and a little scruffy, not exactly handsome by common definitions, but rippling, rippling, with integrity and talent. Vegetables can have integrity, right? And talent? I hope so, or else I’m going to have to find a new analogy, and that could take a while.”
Rituals themselves can function as dwelling places, as does Orangette. Oftentimes, the ritual aspect of the day-to-day becomes the sole narrative of personal blogs. The blog format begets extreme personalization. Wizenberg, like most blog authors, uses the first person to address her audience, speaking with them as if across the kitchen table or in step arm in arm down city streets [or through the bounteous farmers market stands]. She divulges memories of past loves, post-graduation anxiety, describes the difficulties of book writing and commemorates those influential to her life.
“One afternoon, I remember, we pulled over at a rest stop in New Mexico and shared a slice of blackberry pie that we had bought earlier in the day, in Albuquerque. The wind was whipping my t-shirt around like mad, and my chest felt so tight and painful that I was sure, absolutely sure, that I was dying. Once we got to Oklahoma City, I knew, I would be diagnosed with some sort of rare, fatal condition and given only a few months to live, and everyone would take pity on me and send me back to San Francisco, where I would live out my final days in a Victorian with a view of the bay. It would be beautiful and tragic, not only because I was only 22 and had never had a real boyfriend, but also because I would probably die in the summertime, when there is no fresh Dungeness crab.”
Finally, Wizenberg’s use of photographs—all taken by her and becoming progressively more professional from year to year—is essential to her stories. They are the lighting to her sentence framed settings—a grey afternoon with tea, cookies and a pile of ruddy old books, a candle-lit table cloth anticipating the arrival of good friends and cream of scallop soup to celebrate new year’s eve. Offering a glimpse of her table, her kitchen, her front porch, the soft colors and somewhat blurry lines in the photographs enhance her writing with orienting subtlety.