Otaku Journalism aims and succeeds in helping geek journalists
In March, journalist Lauren Orsini published Otaku Journalism, a journalism textbook touching on fandom and internet popculture, for aspiring fan reporters who'd be eager to turn their geek passions into a writing career.Orsini believes that fans can deliver the news more accurately and topically than anyone else, as they are already embedded in the subcultures they report on.
A professional journalist writing for outlets such as ReadWrite, CNN, Forbes, Kotaku, Japanator, and holding a master's degree in Journalism from American University, Orsini is very knowledgeable on the subject of fan reporting, as she's been writing about her own geeky interests and helping her fellow fan reporters on otakujournalist.com since 2009. There have been many guides about journalism published by Orsini here, helping to produce amazing results amongst her readers.
Orsini's book, Otaku Journalism: A Guide to Geek Reporting in the Digital Age, digitally available through Amazon's Kindle, is mostly a collection of guides offering very practical advice for aspiring fan reporters such as how to find your own beat (basically the topic you're specialized in as a reporter); interviewing; event coverage; blogging; pitching and landing writing jobs. All chapters are very detailled, full of personal experience and inspirational.
Personally what offered me the most educational value and influenced me a great deal was the chapter on beat reporting (also because I've been covering live events and interviewing for 8 years now, more on that later). As a journalist, especially one writing about his/her own geeky/otaku interests, the more you specialize in one topic, "the better [you] write in-depth articles about it", as Orsini explains it. That's beat reporting in a nutshell, as compared to writing articles on anything you can.
Orsini describes in her book how she evolved from writing on Otaku Journalist about anime in general to fandom. It's a natural fit for her, considering she's been into anime since age 12: "I've been pretty geeky ever since—playing video games, M:TG, watching anime, building websites, stuff like that. It's been part of my identity for the majority of my life, and they say to write what you know! So I write about geekdom." Eventually, finding her beat, fandom/geekdom, gave Orsini the confidence to write about it as an expert, who'd eventually land a fulltime job.
Otaku Journalism has been released on the 19th March, about two months ago. So I had the oppurtunity to inquire how the whole experience has been for Orsini so far. Turns out she wrote an honest and eye-opening blog post about how it's been difficult to recoup her investments. As Orsini's book is very much focused on how web journalism works today, I wanted to know if she had plans to update the book eventually. Orsini: "Eventually, yes. I'm sure my examples will get dated since I tried to make them as current as possible. Already some of the things I wrote about are no longer relevant—like the way Dragon*Con used to have a registered sex offender on the board, but no longer does."
To depart from a conventional book review format, I'd now like to share with you all how reading Otaku Journalism has positively influenced me. I hardly if ever endorse anything, so when I do I want y'all to know where I'm coming from.
Before I start, here's a bit of background on myself: I'm an anime-fan since 1998 — it all started quite appropiately with Akira! — operating an anime fansite for nearly ten years, eventually turning my hobby into a profession as an ICT-entrepreneur. Writing has always been an hobby for me. I was a volonteer journalist for a local online music magazine since 2006, of which I eventually became an editor. I have lots of stories to share on anime and manga, so I figured I should write about all of that.
I enthusiastically started this blog in February, 2014, effectively relaunching my old website. I blogged about several anime and manga series I liked, covered some news stories, done some interviews; wrote bio's on manga artists I respected, picked up some stories on Japanese culture, etc. It was all over the place and quite draining and not something I could keep up, combining a fulltime job with several hours of writing everyday. At the same my blog wasn't getting a distinct profile, I wasn't becoming an expert on anything.
So reading Otaku Journalism really got me thinking about what I should my focus my energies on. I really wanted to grow into a topic, learn everything about it, make contacts everywhere, be the first or only one to publish a great story. But what should it be? Then it hit me, the topic I desperately needed to write about has been there all along. You see, I haven't just been writing all my life. I've been writing stories. It almost feels like I've been collecting them, the collective result of thousands unlikely inspirational moments. My collection of stories is now big enough to actually start producing them in some form or another, but which one it should be has been a puzzle for years.
The form I decided that is a natural fit to me, is to produce at least a few of my stories as manga, as I've also been drawing all my life besides writing. And from there, if I ever get the organizational and financial muscle to do so, an anime adaptation of one particular epic story I've literally been working on for over a decade. You are allowed to call me a dreamer, but you can't say it's at all impossible. Because it isn't (cue in my entreprenerial spirit). There are tens of thousands of people world-wide living this dream right now. Mostly in Japan, but still. Even that country is opening up more and more to the West, so who knows. A gaijin may get his shot ;).
Anyway, so I feel I'm becoming more and more a creator of (manga) comic stories (and hopefully associated products, *cough* anime *cough*). As such, I've got a natural affinity with other (would-be) creators, and I actively seek them out as I try to learn from or be inspired by them. It hasn't yet become very apparent on this blog, but ever since reading Otaku Journalism I've decided to focus on anime and manga creators. And not just the ones who live in Japan, but in the West. I'll find the dreamers like myself and give them a platform to tell their story. And heck, I might just be one of the few to do this. And become an expert at.
And voila, there you have it: my journalistic beat. It took me five paragraphs, but I'm back to turn this post into a book review again. Thanks for sticking with me. Have a cookie.
In conclusion, I can definitely vouch for the educational value Otaku Journalism provides. Of course, you'd need to be a passionate fan of something, and have a knack for reporting. But if you got that, and if you're willing to work hard, by all means go pick up that book. It might be one the best things you can do to start your writing career.