7 February 2013 | 1 comment
Today’s question comes from Twitter:
As press attending an anime con, should I cosplay or not? Any guidelines or advice you have?
Short answer: cosplay away! But before you grab your cat ears/Naruto headband/Rainbow Dash wig, listen to my reasoning.
In my free workbook, Jumping from Fan to Pro, I wrote about the difference between objectivity and transparency. When I was learning to become a journalist, the former was most highly valued; a good journalist didn’t make herself part of the story. This concept is fantastic in theory—completely unbiased news!—but doesn’t work in the real world, since journalists are people. We bring our own experiences to every story we write, and trying to conceal that is at best unhelpful, and at worst disingenuous.
Instead, I encourage fellow journalists to practice transparency, a professional form of honesty to your readers about your reporting process. Be upfront about who you could and couldn’t reach for your article. If you interviewed somebody you have personal ties to, note that somewhere obvious. If you screw up, swallow your pride and share that too; even the New York Times has to print dozens of corrections every day.
What does this have to do with cosplay? It’s yet another way to practice transparency. The way you express yourself visually shares something up front about you with your interview subjects, and informs their decision about whether or not to open up to you, and how much.
Here’s one example where my personal interests earned me an advantage: I’m a pretty big fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. When I wanted an interview with a cagey brony who was afraid of being made fun of, I sent him a drawing of my pony OC (original character), an Earth Pony journalist. Thanks to that, I was able to get the only interview with this particular brony.
“I normally would not grant [an interview] to anyone but you showed me your pic with a pony drawing and I figured no harm should come from this,” he responded. What made me happy about this reply was not that he assumed I would be on “his side” or anything, but that he was trusting be to be truthful with his story.
Was my article about him non-stop glowing praise and no criticism? Of course not, but it was honest. The point is, the fact that I shared a hobby in common with him got him to open up to me at all in the first place. And he knew that I was reaching out to him in a professional context, so there was nothing misleading about me writing a neutral story.
In conclusion, there’s more than one way to be professional. At an anime convention, there’s nothing out of place about sharing your fandom through cosplay. What counts is that you treat your interview subjects with respect and do your duty to your audience to deliver an honest, neutral story.
I’ve worn a lot of nerdy getups while reporting at conventions, from cat ears and a tutu to a full-blown maid cafe costume. It’s nice to have the freedom not to have to wear office clothes like I always did when I worked at a local paper. But at conventions its not the clothes I wear that signal my craft, it’s a $1 reporter’s notebook, a camera, and a heartfelt and appreciative request for an interview.
My only caveat? If your costumes are as eye-catching as say, those of Yaya Han, you might want to make it a casual cosplay while you’re trying to report. If people are trying to get your picture while you’re trying to work, that’s distracting for both you and your interview subject.