What happens if true journalism dies?

I had a conversation the other day with a group of die-hard newspaper subscription holders. They were around my parents’ ages, but they were also computer savvy. But they were concerned at how the paper was shrinking, and about different newsgroups going out of business. One told me her friend’s daughter – a journalism major – was happy just to get an interview at Wells Fargo several states away.

My concern is not in the amount of information out there, but the truth of the information. While it’s fine and sometimes funny to hear a Chris Matthews paranoid rant or a Lou Dobbs spin, I want to know the facts first. And while it’s great to witness a race to a scene with cameras to get the scoop, it’s still missing an element that only a newspaper story can give: that researched background. There’s nothing new under the sun, so when someone holds up a Holocaust museum, I don’t just want to see the story unfold, I want to know everything about the story. That well-researched newspaper article can give me not just an eyewitness account, but a factual background (set the scene, tell me why), different viewpoints, and summarized points for me to digest. One article, with all the reference, research, and facts I need helps me make my OWN opinion. Then, I can form my own commentary without a Chris or Lou or Rachel  in my ear first.

What happens when we gossip about the news? What happens when we can’t go a step further and discuss, debate and wrestle with the abstract life lessons underneath the facts, instead just adding on to what we think we know from hourly internet updates? What happens if the art of true journalism dies?

Good storytelling, bad writing

When I pick up a book from the library or bookstore and read the back cover, I get intrigued by the plot of the story. But before I make that selection, I open to the middle of the book and read a couple of pages. If my skin starts to crawl, it’s over. The book goes back on the shelf. Bad writing can totally kill a good story plot.

Sometimes writers (especially novelists) are so hung up on book sales and getting their names out there, that they forget we have to actually read the book. Writers can get obsessed with elements like how many people are going to die, is there a cliff hanger at the end of every chapter, or how many characters are mentally unstable and what are they doing to move the story along. These things (and more) supposedly help sell books.

Yes, it’s true that in this fast-paced world it’s harder to keep a reader’s attention. How many people are interested in deconstructing the symbolism of your novel? How many want to plow through the allegory in your memoir? Not many. But please remember that you are a writer. Writing is an art, a craft. And good writing is about more than good storytelling. Good writing pulls the reader in and makes them a part of your journey. And isn’t that what will keep your readers buying?