Liz Jones, a confessional journalist who needs little introduction, got to plug her book and share the most recent of her woes and pets in an Observer Woman feature yesterday.
Rachel Cooke, who once worked with her, took a shrewd and not exactly flattering look at Jones and the ‘Faustian pact’ the former Marie Claire editor seems to have with her personal columns (eg. an account of her single life in the Sunday Times, the ‘Wedding Planner’ series in the Guardian, and currently in the Sunday Mail.)
Confessional journalism as a trade has generated some criticism lately (Hadley Freeman here, for example; Jill Parkin here, for example); here was our latest chance to find out just why columnists do it. Cooke wrote:
“(…)The trouble is that the kind of writing she does leaves her marooned on a sad little island of self from which there is, apparently, no way back to shore. “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone,” she [Jones] says. Well, why not stop, then? No one is forcing her to skin herself in public. “I could stop now, but I’ve destroyed lots of things already, so what would be the point? But if I was given the choice again, I probably wouldn’t have written about myself. It’s so difficult!” Difficult? “You have to be very brutal: you have to talk about your failings.”(…)”
In a related aside, that other doyenne of confess all to all, Tanya Gold, took part in BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions last week. Her final comment: “I despise Twitter – I would like to talk to a real person.” Funny that. Maybe the bride berated by Gold for compiling a wedding list might have liked to receive criticism in person too, rather than via Guardian.co.uk.
What do you think of female-orientated journalism in the UK? Are sections like Observer Woman and Femail necessary or relevant in 2009? Where are the best places to find representative portrayals of female subject matter? The best blogs? Or is there even such a thing as ‘female subject matter’? Journalism.co.uk is pulling together some thoughts for a forthcoming feature. Please do get in touch with yours.