“Pink” Journalism: Does anyone even talk like that?

gerbilinachairIn my introductory post, I declared that this blog would not be a platform for me to be “hoity-toity.” Okay, well, I think that this post sort of violates that promise. However, I would like to start by making it clear that I’m not trying to make it seem as though my writing is of perfect quality and flawless in every way. I really just want to articulate a trend that I’ve been seeing bleed over from magazines to the “blogosphere.”

I’m gendering this trend by calling it “pink” journalism. Essentially, I’m arguing that pink journalism is a gendered form of yellow journalism (which if I’m not mistaken is historically associated with political news and commentary). In a year-old post featured on The Frisky, blogger Rachel Rabbit White defines “pink journalism” as blogs and news columns written by and for women. To White, pink journalism is a positive way to reach out to and connect women. My definition of pink journalism differs from White’s in that I don’t apply the term to all women’s writing. In fact, I think that many women produce fantastic pieces of writing; most of my favorite authors and journalists happen to be women. I also want it to be clear that I don’t think writing about “frivolous” or “feminine” things is bad. I call myself a feminist, but I am certainly not the kind of feminist who spits in the face of femininity entirely and in fact, I regularly indulge in “feminine” activities such as stalking makeup blogs and watching trashy reality television (it’s for the sake of research though, I swear).

Anyway, my point is that pink journalism works the same way yellow journalism does: by dumbing down writing/reporting in order to in theory make the content more accessible. Instead it works to manipulate a reader and sensationalize a subject in order to (usually) sell a product. I would like to add that pink journalism sells not only products but also lifestyles and brand loyalty in general (there go my hopes of ever making money with this blog!).

The type of journalism that I grew up reading in women’s fashion magazines has, looking back, always been overly simplistic and perhaps even patronizing. Although I didn’t notice it as a kid or a tween (I started reading my mother’s issues of Glamour around eight years old and got a subscription to Seventeen shortly thereafter), the writing in women’s magazines is very, very simple. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. People pick up Cosmopolitan for a reason: to indulge in light, cheap entertainment. I’ve been reading magazines for most of my life and I have to admit that very few articles actually stick with me for a long time (I remember articles about girl who was abused by her a boyfriend, a girl who committed suicide, and a woman who was regularly molested during childhood by a priest. That’s really all I’ve ever retained). To be honest, the “Real Life” installments that tackle topics such as the ones I’ve just listed actually tend to be well-written and concise.

Everything else featured in such magazines, however, is written as though pandering to children.

This post isn’t really about magazines (which seems to be kind of a dying industry anyway). Rather, I’m interested in how many female bloggers (specifically in the realm of fashion or mommy blogging) have internalized this sort of coddling tone and use it in their writing. Additionally, I recognize that blogs, especially personal blogs, aren’t always considered “journalism.” I chose to mention magazines at the beginning of this post for that reason, since I think the gap is narrowing between the kind of writing found in magazines and the kind of writing featured on blogs. It’s really all the same type of content, except that the “branding” is left up to the owner(s) of the blog, with one foot in sponsorships and the other foot in seeming relevant and “real” to their subscribers.

So, what are some more specific examples of this “tone” I’ve been blathering on about for over 600 words? Here are some stylistic trademarks of pink journalism (and I’m talking about the content of posts, not their snappy titles):

  • Many, many exclamation points. I’m not the kind of person who hates exclamation points—contrary to what many people are probably thinking right now, I’m not that pretentious—but I can’t help but feel as though some sentences aren’t really all that “exclamatory.” Exclamation points are used liberally in a lot of pink blogs and it just comes across as very fake to me.
  • Brief, simple sentences that rely on fairly short words. It’s not as though I feel like a lot of bloggers are struggling to articulate what they’re attempting to communicate; I just think that the execution of said communication is done in very broad strokes. I suppose this makes the material very accessible to young people and people who don’t speak English as a first language, but I feel like a lot of the time the writer in question isn’t doing the topic at hand justice.
  • No unique writing “style.” It’s hypocritical of me to call out blogs for being boring. After all, I write a weird, somewhat pretentious “culture” blog. My entries are way too long and often meandering. However, I just can’t help but feel like so many blogs sound like exactly like one another and fail to deviate from the same topics.
  • Significant emphasis on “stuff.” I realize that a lot of bloggers are compensated for sponsoring products, but companies partner with them for a reason. That isn’t to say that I don’t follow and enjoy sponsored blogs because I absolutely do. I just think that there’s a cute and sparkly spin put on “go out and buy this thing you really don’t need” posts that seem to suggest a very subtle, but very effective, marketing ploy known as “viral marketing.” This is part of why I compare many “pink” blogs with magazines—when you buy or read a magazine, you’re essentially exposing yourself almost exclusively to advertisements.

All of that being said, I am well aware of the fact that most popular blogs are indeed drifting further into marketing and sponsorship and I am not trying to demonize that. However, I think that blogs written for women (“pink” blogs) have a remarkably different tone compared to blogs that are more gender-neutral. And although the purpose of pink journalism is, in theory, to market a lifestyle, I can’t help but feel very bored and uninspired by the subtly vapid, patronizing writing. It all just seems too saccharine and “think positive!” for me, though this might entirely be a matter of personal taste.

Am I a complete jerk for writing an entry on this? I don’t like to seem too self-conscious in my posts but I just really want to make it clear that I’m merely commenting on a trend I’ve been noticing, not rallying for change. I suppose I’m just puzzled by the fact that many of these women are college-educated and talented but their writing style doesn’t suggest that level of intellect. I’ve also abstained from linking to any especially “pink” blogs because, well, that’s just an unkind thing to do and they’re certainly not difficult to locate.

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