If you’ve come to GalleyCat after reading Alissa Quart‘s Mother Jones article about the increasing professionalism of online amateurs, welcome! (If you haven’t read this story about “the Mike Leighs of MySpace and YouTube, the homespun digital photographers who sell their work to photo agencies for next to nothing, T-shirt designers who are still in high school, ballpoint-pen doodlers who’ve become contemporary artists, and graphic design geniuses who spend their days entering online Photoshop contest” yet, make sure to follow through the link and check it out.) As the co-author of this blog (along with Sarah Weinman, I’m mentioned briefly as an example of somebody who started out by writing for my own website and has moved on to a successful freelance career, although I hasten to mention that I’m not quite as “ambivalent about the idea of joining the ranks of the careerists” as the article makes me sound. I rather enjoy participating in the cash economy, after all, even if it’s in my pajamas. (I wish I could say I look as snappy as the fellow in this Joe Ciardiello illustration doing it, but no such luck.)
That said, I believe it’s absolutely true that some of the sideswipes and direct insults we’ve seen against “amateurs” from professional journalists in the last year or so are about “ironclad defensiveness.” We need look no further than George Will and his contempt for You, or Dave Itzkoff‘s role as the latest member of the NYTBR kulturklatsch to criticize what he calls “the impulsive, first-draft ethos of the blogosphere.” As I’ve maintained all along, though, the rise of talented new members of the creative class from various new electronic media isn’t going to lead to the death of “old media”—just to the elimination of some of its mediocrities, as they’re replaced by better, more talented people discovered online. Not everybody in old media is defensive, after all, there’s a recognized need for innovation now, and although some experiments may fail, others will succeed.