How Fandom Made Me A Better Journalist

I went from bombarding my heroes with questions over Twitter to securing festival passes and expenses budgets to do it in real life. I may have started for the wrong reasons, but I’m so glad I did.

I had been watching her YouTube channel avidly since 2008. I had met her at a YouTube convention in 2014, all bad hair and no makeup and big shirt. I had spluttered and fawned and come away entirely star-struck, but later on I felt the most profound sense of loss.
To this artist who had made my life so rich and full of joy, I could never be more than a statistic. One person simply cannot care about everyone they meet. There was no way I could connect with them on a level that was anything more than superficial. Our encounter would always be limited to a hello, a smile, and a picture. 
I didn’t blame her of course. It was to be expected, all a part of being a fan, and she was a perfect angel to me when we met. I couldn’t have expected anything more, and yet, throughout the weekend I could not stop noticing the artifice that pervaded the whole charade.

People didn’t want to meet their favourite creators, they wanted to have met them.

Worst of all, I was guilty of it too! I queued up for hours to meet Hank Green, knowing full well I didn’t have a single thing to say to him once I did. I wanted to thank him for his content and his insight, but most of all I wanted to post my meet and greet photo with him and watch the envious Facebook likes role in.
However, it soon became clear to me that what I was doing wasn’t enough. I became more active in the fandoms I was a part of, rejoicing whenever an artist I loved replied to a blog post including them on Twitter, or reposted my artwork of them on Instagram.
Whenever I met a creator I liked, like Max from RuPaul’s drag with whom I still have an almost spiritual connection, I showed up with presents and letters from other fans, and made sure I had cultivated a personal relationship with them from the beginning.
Don’t believe me? I still have the screenshots. I still get a little thrill of pride whenever I’m recognised, and I can’t pretend I’m above saving the interactions. One day, when I’m old, I think I’ll enjoy looking back on all the little communities I was a part of, and the interactions we wore like trophies.
                                                                                                                                                                                Once again though, there came a point where this wasn’t enough.
I wrote off those desperately seeking recognition from their faves as desperate and pathetic or lacking in originality, despite the fact that they were some of the most artistic people I’d ever met. I was partly bitter that my internet notoriety suffered because I attempted to post original content, while those that endlessly retweeted selfies of their favourite singers got widespread social media acclaim.

I quit cold turkey. That’s when I got serious about blogging.

I made a blog post about an underground fashion designer who had just been picked up by World Of Wonder, with no ulterior motives except the wish for more people to see how wonderful she was. Within minutes, she retweeted the article and shared it on her personal Facebook, hailing me as a legitimate cultural outlet. Sidenote: she now designs for Melanie Martinez.
I didn’t fawn. Instead, I used it as a spring board. There were others on the W.O.W Presents Network that were in desperate need of promotion, and I wrote about them all with the same naive and complimentary tone. They were all kind and gracious, will most even seeming genuinely thrilled to have their art and work shared, and because of their gratitude my reach grew.

This was a kind of interaction I’d never experienced before. It was genuinely reciprocal.

When I got confident, I reached out to some of the biggest cabaret stars I knew, and I was shocked and delighted when they didn’t even pause before consenting to an interview. What’s more, when I published the finished result, they seemed to genuinely appreciate the work that went into it. I was stunned, but what’s more, I was hooked.
It was this following that allowed me to reach out to a small independent music site, which has since grown exponentially in size and scope. That position led to a position at an even bigger outlet, which led to free arena shows and festival passes and backstage clearance. I was close quarters with artists I had followed for years.

 

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Had I still considered myself as such, I would have been in fangirl heaven.

Which brings me full circle, back to the girl whose videos I had been watching since 2007. It was February of 2017. I was interviewing her for my university paper as part of a feature on YouTube musicians, and I couldn’t help but think about how far I’d come.
You’ll have to wait for the full story, as the day was a wild-ride from beginning to end, but suffice to say I didn’t realise I’d be getting to speak to her. I was wholly overwhelmed, and when I tapped on her dressing room door and met her eyes I felt the rush of fangirl nerves I hadn’t felt in years.
This doesn’t matter to her. Who do you think you are? This is such an imposition.
Then she smiled, and I instantly snapped back to my senses. This was an interview. More than that, this was my job. She wanted to talk to me, and more than getting a picture or a Twitter follow, I wanted to talk to her.
And yet, because I had been such an ardent fan, I was able to phrase my questions with a level of competency she wasn’t expecting. I referenced old inside jokes, used examples I knew she loved, asked questions about videos only the most hardcore fans would know about.

Because of this, it was both the easiest and most rewarding interview I’d ever conducted.

My fandom knowledge made me an interviewer that genuinely cared about the subject matter, and one that could engage with her on a level most couldn’t. It’s what made my material so much more nuanced, and gave eventual write-up an edge over the writers who had a passing interest in her music at best.

Fandom hadn’t just got me to the place I was, but it continued to serve me well.


This post first appeared on Niume. If you sign up using this link, you get $1 just for making your first post, and it makes supporting your fellow creators so much easier. If you want to see part 2 of this story before anyone else, and learn how being an obsessive fan can lead to the best journalism of your life, head on over! 

Stay Different,
Your Skye
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