‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.
Recently, New York Times columnist Bill Keller engaged in a thoughtful back-and-forth with journalist Glenn Greenwald, who writes for The Guardia and broke the Edward Snowden story earlier this year. The topic of conversation is what, exactly, is the future of news?
Keller speaks from the perspective of a Times man, a long-time employee of the company that’s widely seen as the beacon of American journalism. Greenwald offers a more progressive view of journalism, one in which objectivity its shed for naked partisanship and undisclosed bias. Greenwald isn’t saying journalists should produce work skewed by the biases, but rather that subjectivity plays a role in everybody’s work – no matter who, no matter the work – and that it should therefore be disclosed.
Despite the fact that some of the conversation feels as if it veers off track and becomes a personal battle of score settling, the conversation between Keller and Greenwald is insightful and well worth a read. Theatrics aside, the fundamental difference in the debate is interesting. I have two thoughts.
1) I’ve always believed the word “objective” is misinterpreted in journalism. It’s represented as being impartial and opinion-less, but that’s never true. We all have opinions, we all feel certain emotions around subjects and assignments. The better word, to me, is “professional.” A professional is fair, accurate, thorough and balanced – all of the characteristics we attach to objectivity. But I think what you feel is an important part of storytelling and should be conveyed – through your own voice, through scenes, through characters, through something. I wouldn’t worry about feeling “objective.” I’d concern myself about doing a professional job.
2) Above all else, isn’t the point of media to provide information while also providing something interesting? I think a lot about how content is changing – what people like to consume, how we like to consume it, what resonates with readers now, what engages people. There are so many compelling ways to tell stories now online – with graphics and illustrations and video and charts and all sorts of things – and this fosters an array of styles. And, I think, given how social media drives a substantial part of the discussion, engagement in content is vital. So would I rather read a cold account of, say, the latest Apple release, or somebody’s personal, smart, informative experience of them engaging the latest Apple release and discussing it with sources?
People have to make choices when they read. So often when I’m choosing, I’m looking for something of a certain standard, yes, but also something that’s not afraid to be different and can give me an experience.
Anyway, that’s a bit of a vent, I realize, but the discussion between Keller and Greenwald is good and will stir some thoughts for you.
I really enjoyed this Louis Menand piece of criticism of Norman Mailer in the New Yorker (subscribers only). I’ve read quite a bit about Mailer’s prolific writing career – “The Fight” is one of my favorite books – but never read, in depth anyway, about Mailer’s personal life. I knew it was chaotic and troubled and such, but I didn’t know he had moments of true awfulness. He was a brilliant writer and also a sometime terrible person. All makes for a fascinating character.
Bosh, who places for the Miami Heat, wrote a piece for Wired magazine detailing his science infatuation and why he thinks learning to code is important. There’s no real takeaway from the writing in this piece, but I’m including because it’s an interesting perspective from an unexpected source. Very cool of Bosh to actively express his interests outside of basketball.
David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, wrote about longtime New York radio personality Jonathan Schwartz. Remnick’s as talented a writer as he is an editor – he won a Pulitzer as a writer, after all – and this is worth a quick read.
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