17
Feb
07

My Interview with Time Magazine Reporter James Poniewozik

james-poniewozik.jpg

The opportunity to interview the Time Magazine reporter who wrote about Gen X parents in the newest edition of Time (p. 39) has been a fascinating experience. It is so much easier now to access the media and other people of interest (thanks to email). The first and second parts of the interview are over at Stroller Derby (Babble’s blog that I write for).

Here are two of the questions I asked and he answered that weren’t published over at Stroller Derby. For those of you who are ever worried that blogging is taken seriously as a medium for intelligent discussion and pundit-ry, this will (maybe) put your mind at ease:

CRANKMAMA: How do you view the blogging phenomenon in relation to reporting for Time and the like?

JAMES P: I like it. I read a lot of blogs. And look, I’m an opinion writer, so as far as someone blogging their criticism of something I’ve written–hey, I got to say my piece, they should get to say theirs. (I have a blog myself, at http://time-blog.com/tuned_in/ — it’s more fun than writing for the print magazine.) Then they can invite me for a Q&A, and I can have my say further, and then they can further respond to my responses, and on goes the great circle of life.

One or two critics of my essay — could one of them have been CrankMama? — suggested that my piece basically was the big guy vs. the little guys, or big media’s resentment of little media. First of all, Alternadad–which I gave far, far more ink than I gave to Babble–is a book, which has not been new media for 500 years, and is published by Pantheon. That’s not exactly the SubPop of the publishing world. Second, I think the condescending thing to do would have been
to say, “Oh, I shouldn’t critique these online writers, they’re too small fish, they can’t handle it.” Writing is writing. Babble is a for-profit online magazine, just like Salon, where I was a columnist for two years before I went to Time.

To me, and I think a lot of professional writers my age, the distinction between old and new media is not that big a deal. I think some older journalists, your George Will types, are very concerned about the distinction. And frankly some bloggers are obsessed by it. To somebody who has basically used the Internet his whole professional life, it’s all just writing. If the checks clear, cool.

CRANKMAMA: Do you consider yourself a hip parent? If not, why not?

JAMES P: If I am a hip parent, the term “hip” is probably so devalued as to be nearly meaningless. Which of course it is, just as “alternative” is. (Who doesn’t consider themselves alternative? Everyone from the transgendered to Christian fundamentalists has a narrative in which they’re excluded from and put upon by the mainstream of society.) I mean, what’s “hip” today? It’s crap you buy. It’s what you have on your iPod. It’s basically defined by your ownership of Apple products. If there’s one thing I might change about my essay, it would be using
the term “hipster,” which has become so slippery.

Except what would I replace it with? It’s a catchall, it elides a lot of differences, and yet the people at Babble, the people at blogs offended by my essay–they certainly seem to believe that it encompassed them even as they objected to it, and that there was, in fact, some common self-selected entity that they belonged to. They complained about the term, said that it didn’t capture their diversity–but their posts were all linked to each other’s posts, and they blogroll each other, and they talk constantly about the “community.” But write a critical word about that community, and suddenly, you’re lumping them all together when they don’t deserve to be.

So fine, maybe we shouldn’t use “hipster parent writer.” Maybe we should use “Introspective, Literary, Urban or Formerly Urban Before Moving to the Burbs, Respectful of Differences About Co-Sleeping and Immunizations Parent Writer.” But I don’t think that makes a good acronym.

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7 Responses to “My Interview with Time Magazine Reporter James Poniewozik”


  1. February 17, 2007 at 10:42 am

    “and yet the people at Babble, the people at blogs offended by my essay–they certainly seem to believe that it encompassed them even as they objected to it, and that there was, in fact, some common self-selected entity that they belonged to. They complained about the term, said that it didn’t capture their diversity–but their posts were all linked to each other’s posts, and they blogroll each other, and they talk constantly about the “community.” But write a critical word about that community, and suddenly, you’re lumping them all together when they don’t deserve to be.”

    He has a point there don’t you think!

  2. February 17, 2007 at 10:55 am

    He absolutely does have a point, CC. And in fact, I think he’s incredibly articulate about the issues here….

    It’s all very interesting…

  3. February 17, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    I liked this:

    “I mean, what’s “hip” today? It’s crap you buy. It’s what you have on your iPod.”

    I think that’s what bothers me about the whole hipster phenomenon, it’s defined not by rejecting consumerism but by consuming *the right* things.

    Interesting conversation. I’m definitely not a hipster by any definition but I have enjoyed following this conversation around the Internet. I like that you gave him space to respond.

  4. February 17, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Very interesting. Very interesting, indeed…(twirling my imaginary mustache)

  5. 5 PunditMom
    February 17, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks for you kind comments about my cool-ness, CM, as a blogger parent, as well as the link, again, to my blog!

    I am envious that you had the chance to interview a big-wig over at Time Magazine. Hopefully, sometime soon, “mommy-bloggers” will reach critical mass — in time for 2008, perhaps?

    And, by the way, James — a lot of us bloggers are also PROFESSIONAL writers, as you describe yourself. So don’t sell us short. You know how fickle this industry is — one of us might have your job soon! 😉

  6. February 18, 2007 at 4:21 am

    I’ve read the whole interview now and he comes out of it rather well. So, if I may say so, do you. You give good question.

  7. February 19, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Outstanding interview. I love seeing writers and reporters beyond that which they report. Gives you some more perspective.


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