I recently attended a press event for the grand opening of a restaurant. There, sticking out among all the slacks, dresses, and neatly pressed shirts, was a young man, hair in disarray, wearing a black tank top and cargo pants. I was later told, much to my surprise, that this young man, who looked no more than 19 years old, might have been the most important person at this event.
“He has over 10,000 followers on his blog and over 15,000 followers on Twitter,” my co-worker told me. “He’s a huge local influencer.”
There I sat, witnessing this greasy, zit-popping blogger being schmoozed just as much as the head food critic at the city’s major newspaper. One could say my astonished expression, with my mouth slightly agape, was due to jealousy (for the only influence I’ve achieved with my four (ahem, five) years of higher education came in a brief moment regarding my dog’s diet), but that wouldn’t be true. Instead, I was in awe of witnessing a veritable changing of the guard in the field of journalism – the pepper-haired journalist passing the torch to the young blogger.
I studied journalism in college. I read textbooks by leaders in the field, studied the AP Stylebook, procrastinated, went to class, skipped class, and received an ungodly amount of lectures about comma splices before receiving an 11 x 14 piece of stationery that says I can write.
Since then, I’ve seen my name in print in a number of publications. I’ve written features, news stories, op-eds, and interviewed politicians and head coaches. Yet, the most shared & viewed piece I’ve written is a blog about a charity car wash.
I remember posting the blog on WordPress, not edited for copy, but shared on social. It blew up. The content was something Thomas Friedman would undoubtedly scoff at, yet there was a story to tell. The Car Wash raised money for research for a very rare terminal disease that one of our pro bono clients, a 5-year-old girl, was suffering from. We got the word out on social, and the response was extraordinary. The blog received over 300,000 hits in one day and the Car Wash was a resounding success!
For those who say journalism is changing, they’re clearly behind and out of touch. Journalism changed with the advent of the internet. Journalism changed when the medium changed, when the majority of people communicated and received information in real-time on their computers, phones and tablets. Today, a blogger with a big following is just as influential as the columnist for your local newspaper – more in some cases.
Something I went to school for, and forced my parents to spend tens of thousands of dollars on, is suddenly something anyone can do. We’re all journalists, and the internet is the New York Times, and that disheveled 19-year-old food blogger is Bob freaking Woodward.