The Otaku Journalist manifesto

It’s the title of my blog and in a way, it’s my title too. But until now, I’ve never explained exactly what it means.

I have been calling myself the Otaku Journalist for nearly two years. While I almost always have to explain the meaning of “otaku,” I wouldn’t replace it. A borrowed Japanese word which defines a passionate hobbyist, it’s perfect for my topic – reporting on fandom in all its forms.

In the past few months, however, I’ve begun to see Otaku journalism as a concept of its own. Here’s what I mean when I use this term.

A personal beat

Many newspapers assign reporters “beats,” or regular topics to cover.

Beats sometimes make up the sections of a standard newspaper: Cops and Courts, Politics, Business, Entertainment. This helps reporters to network with the same group of sources who will have relevant and helpful information for a variety of same-category stories.

However, if you’re a blogger or independent reporter, you assign yourself your own beat.

With that kind of freedom, you can pick anything. But if you want your blog to interest other people, it needs to hold your own attention first. It makes the most sense to pick a topic you’re already crazy about.

Fandom is what energizes me. Pick the beat that energizes you.

Authentic reporting

In journalism school, I learned that objective reporting should be my highest aspiration. I should never imply that I’ve ever held any sort of opinion. One of my professors even suggested that if we wanted to be good journalists, we wouldn’t vote in national elections – what if somebody found out who we picked? Needless to say, I’m calling BS.

Human beings are opinionated by nature. If we try to suppress them, they might unconsciously come out even more glaring than if we’d addressed them directly. To pretend to be a robot is not only impossible, it’s dishonest.

I’m not saying to take sides. But don’t be a cold observer. Bring yourself, your experiences and intuition, to the article. What drew you to this story? The things that interest you will likely interest your readers. Sate your curiosity as a human at the same time that you conduct interviews as a journalist. Readers will have the same questions.

Stories should be about people, and that includes you.

The new journalism

Journalism jobs are dead. Journalism opportunities are everywhere.

For more than a year, nobody paid me to do what I do. But I kept reporting. Because telling true stories about fandom is the only profession that feels right to me. So I went to school or worked at a gym during the day, wrote blog posts around that and felt complete.

Reporting is not even what I’m best at. It’s not the thing that can make me the most money. It is simply the thing I am most passionate about doing.

If you’re aspiring to be a journalist, you should feel the same. You don’t have to feel passionate about all reporting — personally I don’t jump for joy to write about politics, (but I do if I have to).

In short, Otaku Journalism is not just what I do. It’s a way of life for anyone who is passionate about something and has that undeniable itch to share it.