Barnard College puts out a great fashion mag called Hoot, and you might recognize the name of one of the contributors to their latest issue: It’s Cathy Horyn. The Times critic is a Barnard alum and she wrote a thoughtful piece for Hoot about how she got where she is today, and shared her advice to future fashion writers. She also has a very specific idea for the kind of blog you should start.
Horyn says she always knew she wanted to be a newspaper reporter but “in the post-Watergate era, many young people had the same idea,” so she went to J-school at Medill at Northwestern and started work as a copygirl at the Chicago bureau of the AP on the weekends. After graduating, Horyn applied to 75 newspapers and “received two positive replies,” one of which was from The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. She took the job and covered the school board. Doesn’t sound like the path to a career in fashion journalism, right? Well, that’s kind of Horyn’s point: That a hard news, reporting background is key to a successful career in journalism, even if it’s writing about fashion–something Horyn didn’t even consider until she happened to see to a job posting for a fashion reporter and applied.
“Fashion writing–the world of fashion–was not something I considered at Northwestern, and it only became a thought when I answered an ad in Editor & Publisher for a fashion-reporting job at The Detroit News,” Horyn writes. “One of the things I notice about a lot of fashion blogs is that the writing is not supported by information or a depth of knowledge about the business or the design process. They lack reporting, which demands specific skills–being a good observer, developing sources, knowing what is relevant.”
So if you’re a scrappy super ambitious aspiring fashion blogger, here’s what Horyn thinks you should do:
“One suggestion I have is for someone to create a blog that covers the luxury-goods companies in Paris. I do not mean the latest products or the shows, although that may be part of the coverage. Rather, I mean the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, in the studios, the comings and goings of designers, the decisions of their bosses. Of course, you will not have access to the houses, but that is why you develop sources…You would have to live in Paris, be fluent in French, and absolutely accurate in your reporting. Such a blog or site would take time to develop, but if you can get scoops, or introduce people to key players–all while remaining undazzled by the scene–then you will have readers.”
As the editor of a fashion blog, one who got her start at a newspaper, I agree with Horyn: Fashion blogs often lack reporting and I grapple with this. Because I also know that the pace and nature of blogs doesn’t always allow for original reporting on each of the 10 to 20 posts that go up a day–but we can and should do more of it. The kind of blog Horyn suggests someone start sounds fantastic–but also sounds like one of those jobs, like being an EA at Vogue, that is hard to hold down unless you happen to have a lot of money saved up or parents with a lot of money to support you. Sure, you could work a different day job and sleuth around Paris talking with employees of luxury-goods companies at night, but it’s nice to get paid for what you like to do. And when you’re getting paid to do what you like to do, that means considering the demands of your bosses–on the web that often means putting out a lot of content and making sure more and more people are reading it. So we try to hit a balance, reporting out stories like this and this, and putting up quick sillier posts, like this. Ideally, the frenzied pace and aggregating tendencies of web reporting work themselves out and we’re left with more quality original content. I think that’s happening already. Point taken, Ms. Horyn.
And now I put it to you–what’s your take on all this?