Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

11.11.09

Soapbox derby: judges call for a photo.

'The blog is a soapbox, not a story.'
They cut down forests to print sweeping statements like that. So declared Ben McIntyre of The Times (reprinted in The Weekend Australian November 8-9, courtesy of Rupert Murdoch who seems to own every newspaper in the world). Ben had opened the paragraph in which the above sentence appears with the following statement:

'Storytelling is the bedrock of civilisation.'
Fine. Storytelling is the bedrock of civilisation. Who am I to argue? But you just know that a paragraph commencing like that is going to meander along like the Thames through Henley, just not as picturesquely; and so it did before arriving suddenly, jerkily, at the gratuitous dig at blogs. And why does he say ‘The’ blog anyway? To paraphrase Philip Marlowe, I thought there were several. Million.

He uses 'The' because the definite article in the collective noun sense allows him to make the charge without being specific about anyone's blog. Or about every - single - one. You may as well say 'The' newspaper is fit only for tonight's fish and chips. It depends on the content. In both - collective - cases.

Paid writers have been sniping at weblogs for years. It's understandable and sometimes what they say is true. There's trash everywhere you look. Take a look at a magazine stand, for example.

But bloggers and users of other social media also buy newspapers and find it galling to hear reporters continually taking the moral high ground when it comes to 'storytelling' or writings of 'record'.

Somewhat ironically, that very same edition of The Weekend Australian had trumpeted, on another page, changes designed to ‘enhance’ its 'look'. Suddenly, it wasn't all about the story:

'The first thing readers will notice is the new masthead and colour palette throughout the newspaper. ... You will see more white space and less clutter on the pages. ... You will see a greater focus on "visual journalism" to ensure the quality of the words readers have come to trust is reflected in the quality of the design.'
Next week, we improve Shakespeare by changing the typeface.

3 comments:

White Dove said...

Well KH, I'll have to go away and think about this one....you obviously don't believe everything you read in the papers....which is what my Dad said to me when as a youngster I took everything at face value and never questioned or doubted the motives of the writers. It's great to know there are some thinkers amongst us......

Lindie said...

I read blogs to see how other people live their lives, to hear many different opinions, and because some of them are darn good writers! I read yours from half a world away because I am fascinated by both Australia and your life! Plus I was originally interested because of your recipes.

kitchen hand said...

White Dove, 'I read it in the (newspaper name)' is the proof of an argument for so many. A kind of upmarket form of 'I saw on TV'.

Thank you for reading, Lindie.