FRESH IDEAS: Real journalism rises above the blogosphere
It shouldn’t be hard to think of something to say in 450 words – the length of these columns. But this week I had writer’s block something fierce. January was dragging me down.
I considered writing about Burns Night, which is celebrated annually on Jan. 25 to honor the poet Robert Burns. Play up my Scottish heritage and all. But how much can you write about whiskey, haggis and poetry written in a Scots dialect that no one in Nevada (myself included) is likely to understand? I’ll just have to settle back with my single malt in front of the fire and enjoy it, not write about it.
So I cruised the Internet for ideas. All that prolixity, I thought, ought to cure my own dried-up mind. I read online magazines, Web sites and blogs, articles about blogs, blogs about blogs, comments about blogs. Afloat in a sea of words.
I took a break to read the funnies. A fortune teller says to the King of Id, “In the future the news will no longer be written by journalists.”
“Who will write it?” asks the king.
“Uninformed blowhards living in the mothers’ basements.”
My work in this column is probably closer to the output of those “uninformed blowhards” than to the work of a professional journalist, but I do hope we blowhards never completely drive out the professionals. For two reasons.
First, news is not opinion. Journalists are trained at gathering facts, at interviewing, so we can have slightly more faith in what they write. But the other reason is readability, rising even to art.
Your average working journalist would probably laugh at their work being called art. But I think that some of the best writing being done today is creative nonfiction – an outgrowth of journalism – by people who have had training as journalists. They know how to observe, how to arrange the facts to tell a story. I’m thinking of some of my favorite books: Sebastian Junger’s “A Perfect Storm,” Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” anything by Joan Didion or John McPhee – books that take you there, wherever “there” is. I’ve yet to read any blogs that take me there.
I wonder if good, solid non-fiction writing will soon go the way of Burns’ poetry – too archaic, too difficult for most people to read? Maybe eventually something like art will rise from the blogosphere, but I don’t see any of it yet. It’s too short and easy, and way too opinionated and self-referential.
Good writers, good journalists, know how to take themselves out of the way, but blogging is all about being in the way, shouting your opinion louder than everyone else’s.
• Anne Macquarie, a private sector urban planner, is a long time resident of Carson City.