- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
JOURNALISM: defined and described
Journalism is a method of inquiry and, for each of its communicators, it is a particular literary style that aims to provide a service to the public by the dissemination and analysis of news and other information. Journalistic communication also finds its way into broader forms of expression, including literature and cinema, as well as the wide vistas of the print and electronic media. The digital era of the last two decades, say, 1995 to 2015, has also ushered in a new kind of journalism in which ordinary citizens play a greater role in the process of newsmaking, with the rise of citizen journalism being possible through the Internet. I see myself as one of those ordinary citizens.
This sub-section of my website outlines the type, the types, of journalism I have been involved with in the last decade, especially since I retired from a 50 year student-and-employment-life, 1949 to 1999, as well as PT and casual-volunteer work in the next years, 1999 to 2004. Journalistic integrity, an important underpinning to journalism in all its forms, is based on the principles of truth, disclosure, and editorial independence. Journalistic mediums now vary diversely, from print publishing to electronic broadcasting, and from newspaper to television channels, as well as from the web to digital technology. In modern society, the news media and journalism in all their forms are the chief purveyors of information and opinion about public affairs.
Using video camera equipped smartphones, active citizens are now enabled to record footage of news events and upload them onto channels like YouTube, which is often discovered and used by mainstream news media outlets. Meanwhile, easy access to news from a variety of online sources, like blogs and other social media, has resulted in readers being able to pick from a wider choice of official and unofficial sources, instead of only from traditional media organizations. I don't utilize smartphones or any type of video camera, nor do I utilize the medium of YouTube. I do not see myself as a purveyor of daily news; I leave that to the increasing number of specialists who provide the citizenry with a print-and-image glut 24/7.
Journalism, however, is not always confined to the news media or to news itself, as journalistic communication finds its way into broader forms of expression, as I say above: literature & cinema, essays and poetry, &, in the last two decades, blogs & a vast range of internet forums & discussion sites. In some countries, the news media is still controlled by government intervention, & are not fully independent entities. My role in journalism is found below for readers with an interest in my current literary activities. For more on: (i) the forms of journalism, (ii) the history of journalism, (iii) the role and elements of journalism, (iv) professional and ethical standards, (v) legal status, & (vi) the right to protect confidentiality of sources go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism
OTHER ASPECTS OF JOURNALISM
This part of my website deals with a wide-range of aspects of journalism from who's who to citizen journalism, from creative non-fiction to journalism education, from journalism genres and non-profit journalism to reporters without borders, as well as journalism journals and reviews. My own journalistic work is now found in many forms of online activities. The feuilleton is but one example of the many genres of my writing. The feuilleton is as important to the print and electronic media as politics are and, to many readers, this literary form is vastly more important. The feuilleton is that part of a newspaper, magazine, or journal, radio, television or the internet that is devoted to fiction, criticism, and light literature. One occasionally sees the word "feuilleton" in a sentence like: "her sharp wit has made her one of Russia's masters of the literary feuilleton."
"I try to paint the portrait of the age. That’s what great newspapers are there for. I’m not a reporter, I’m a journalist; I’m not an editorial writer, I’m a poet," so wrote Joseph Roth, an acerbic observer of German cultural and political life. You can read about him in a review of his book The Hundred Days in The New York Review of Books(6/11/'14) at this link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/06/joseph-roth-genius-exile/?insrc=toc
And so I ply my trade in myraid ways in cyberspace. There are several journals which are specialized journalism sources particularly useful for people who are interested in various specialist subjects. These journals include, among others: American Journalism Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Health News Review, Ryerson Review of Journalism, and Online Journalism Review. There are two websites with information about online journals in a variety of fields including: business, medicine, music, environment, advocacy, & mass communication, inter alia. These two websites are found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism:_Theory,_Practice_%26 and: https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome
Communication ethics (CE) is a discipline that supports communication practitioners by offering tools and analyses for the understanding of ethical issues. Without question the speed of change in the dynamic information environment presents new challenges, especially for communication practitioners. Ethics used to be a specialist subject situated within schools of philosophy. Today it is viewed as a language and systematic thought process available to everyone. It encompasses issues of care and trust, social responsibility and environmental concern; it also identifies the values necessary to balance the demands of performance today with responsibilities for tomorrow. For busy professionals, CE is a dynamic learning and teaching process that encourages analysis and engagement with many constituencies, enhancing relationships through critical-creative thinking. It can be used to improve organisation performance as well as to protect individual well-being.
Readers with an interest in CE will find the following journal a source of many useful articles which: (i) formalise the study and practice in the fast growing field of CE and articulate the vast communication industries' concerns with ethical reasoning and outcomes; (ii) provide communication practitioners and researchers with a centre to drive the study of ethical practice in communications; (iii) develop specific tools, quality frameworks and training methods and provide them to its members; assess initiatives in related fields & offer guidance and ethics training for communicators; and (iv) offer qualifications that support the practice of communication as an ethical discipline underpinned by principles, rules of conduct and systematic self-examination. Go to this link for a series of articles: http://www.communicationethics.net/espace/index.php?nav=feature
THE INTERVIEW: PERFORMANCE JOURNALISM
One of the central tenets of Janet Malcolm's book The Journalist and the Murderer(London, Papermac, 1998) is that there is always a relationship between the journalist and the subject. This is, indeed, a relationship of actuality and potential. This potential is sometimes realised and sometimes it is not. It is a relationship of mutual opportunism with both practitioner & subject aiming to gain something from the encounter. The sought-after outcome may be celebrity, financial, revenge, altruism, a semblance of justice, agenda setting, propaganda or just some way of being heard. The integrity and performance of both journalist and subject is on show. Malcolm claims that the onus is on the journalist to conduct the interview and the writing of the story ethically; she also argues that the subject has a decisive part to play.
Malcolm’s assumption is that journalists ‘lie’ to their subjects in order to secure their ‘stories’. But she also places some of this responsibility on the subject. She writes: "Unlike other relationships that have a purpose beyond themselves and are clearly delineated as such (dentist-patient, lawyer-client, teacher-student), the writer-subject relationship seems to depend for its life on a kind of fuzziness & murkiness, if not utter covertness, of purpose. If everybody puts their cards on the table, the game would be over. The journalist must do his or her work in a kind of deliberately induced state of moral anarchy (Malcolm 1990: 143). For this article in The International Journal of Communication Ethics (V10, N 2&3, 2013) go to: http://www.communicationethics.net/espace/index.php?nav=feature#
THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM
The age of digital media is witnessing innovation & radical change across all aspects of journalism, creating economic difficulties for legacy media and a frenzied search for alternative business models to fund a sustainable journalism for the future. The global recession since 2007 continues to deepen the sense of economic uncertainty arising from a period of unprecedented change with significant & wide-ranging consequences for the journalism industry, as well as scholarly research in the field of journalism studies. A conference entitled "The Future of Journalism," hosted by Cardiff University in Wales, was convened in September 2013 by that university's School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, to address these concerns. The concerns were discussed via five broadly framed questions concerning the current circumstances and future prospects for journalism. Those questions were:
(i) How are developments in digital and mobile media creating new possibilities for producing, distributing and consuming journalism and, in turn, informing an innovatory journalism practice?
(ii) What are the implications of these changes for traditional business models & for the emergence of new financial strategies to fund journalism?
(iii) How are these developments evidenced in particular national contexts with their several journalism cultures, histories & professional practices?
(iv) What are the consequences (a) for journalism education, training & employment, & (b) of journalists' changing perceptions of their professional roles? and
(v) What are the implications of this fundamental restructuring of journalism for the ethical, political & democratic life of communities locally, nationally & globally?
The subtitle of the conference,“The Future of Journalism: In an Age of Digital Media & Economic Uncertainty” was chosen to encourage a particular focus on developments in digital media, but also on the financial strategies designed to resource a viable & democratic digital journalism. The presence of Robert Picard, as plenary speaker, was intended to underscore that latter focus. This September 2013 conference attracted 200 scholars from more than 35 countries, with 184 authors presenting 113 research-based papers in 30 seminar sessions across the two days.
By way of setting the agenda, if not risking what Tony Harcup called stating “the bleeding obvious” this is undoubtedly a significant time in the history of journalism when almost every aspect of the production, reporting and reception of news is changing. Tony Harcup's book Journalism: Principles and Practice(Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 2009) is a standard work. It was written by a man who has more than 30 years' experience as a staff and freelance journalist on media ranging from small local weekly publications to national newspapers and magazines, both alternative and mainstream. This first-hand experience informs his teaching, supervision and research at the University of Sheffield, where he has worked as a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism Studies since 2005. For more on Harcup go to: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/journal
The significance of the future of journalism involves many issues and implications: (a) for communications within local, national and international communities, and (b) for economic growth, the operation of democracy, and the maintenance and development of the social and cultural life of societies around the globe. It is all but impossible to overstate these implications. It is the pace of change, as much as its character, which is striking and which leaves publishers, industry analysts and academics struggling to make their research findings & scholarly discussions relevant and timely. Shapiro, for example, describes the speed of the transformation of journalism as “dizzying”, but laments that publication schedules too often transform cutting-edge findings into “yesterday's news” (Shapiro, 2014).
I refer to that conference in Wales some two years ago in this Introduction to my own online journalistic work because I want to emphasize to those who come to this part of my website a number of key points. There are, it seems to me, key developments and trends emerging in the future of journalism that are important to people like myself. What I write here in relation to this particular conference signals a brief context for my own online journalistic work, & its many contributions across a wide-range of subjects in the last decade or so. I also trust that some of my readers will see some signposts to the infinitely variable futures for journalism in which I intend to engage in the remaining years of my life from 2015 to, all being well, 2044, when I will be 100! My intention here is to help my readers to explore what has been described in the following wonderfully expressive phrase as “this moment of mind-blowing uncertainty in the evolution of journalism” (Domingo, Masip, and Costera Meijer, 2014). For more go to:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2014.930254
WHAT PAPER SHOULD I READ?
A national newspaper is a newspaper in which the national news circulates throughout the whole country. It is contrasted with a local newspaper serving a city or a region,a province or a state. National newspapers also include metropolitan newspapers with expanded distribution networks. I don't want to give readers here any newspaper indigestion, but the following is a list of national newspapers, divided by country and region. Go to this link for that list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_newspapers No normal human being would want to read even a sample from this massive list.
Since going on an old-age pension in 2009, I’ve left the whole idea of trying to read the national edition of the New York Times, the Globe and Mail in Canada or The Australian Downunder or, for that matter, any newspaper at all. If I want to read any newspaper I go straight to the paper’s website. Even website news is often "old" compared to "breaking news" on TV or the radio. News printed on hard copy or at a website nine or ten hours ago is often too old to keep up with the fast-moving course of 24/7 news on TV. The changing fortunes of the hero of an intensely gripping picaresque novel, or of a politician, are impossible to keep-up with without some degree of concentration. What does the latest poll say? Has the latest political campaign, usually aiming to be sure-footed, stumbled into some damaging foolishness? Has another skeleton been uncovered in the closet? Has his vanity or his inarticulatenss got the better of the poor-chap again? Are the tired or not-so-tired viewers finally tiring of him or her? These are just a few of the standard, the type, or the rhetorical questions people ask about a wide variety of incoming programming, news and entertainment as the days of their lives take them from childhood to old-age. The parallel universe that is the print and electronic media now fill the lives of billions on our planet, for many as much as ten or more hours every day!
THE FOURTH ESTATE: DEFINING SOME TERMS
Journalism has been an activity that, for most of its history, has taken place in what is known as the fourth estate. This 4th estate has referred, for the most part, to the news media, especially print journalism, or "The Press". The Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era, Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) attributed the origin of the term to the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist & philosopher Edmund Burke(1729-1797). Burke used this term in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up, on the beginning, of press reporting, of newspaper reporting, of the House of Commons of Great Britain.
There are several terms that have some broad relevance to this 4th estate. 'The proletariat' is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian. Originally it was identified with those people who had no wealth other than their children. 'The bourgeoisie', on the other hand, is a term used in the fields of political economy, political philosophy, sociology, and history. It originally denoted the wealthy stratum of the middle class, a class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages, the years from 500 to 1500 AD. This was a 1000 year period used by historians for a convenient time-frame. The utilization and specific application of the word has been, & now is, from the realm of the social sciences.
In sociology & in political science, the noun 'bourgeoisie' & the adjective 'bourgeois', are terms that describe a historical range of socio-economic classes. As such, in the Western world, since the late 18th century, the bourgeoisie describes a social class “characterized by their ownership of capital, and their related culture”; hence, the personal terms bourgeois (masculine) and bourgeoise (feminine) culturally identify (i) that man or woman who is a member of the wealthier & wealthiest social class of a given society, & (ii) their materialistic worldview, their 'weltanschauung'. Social class, or simply "class", as in a class society, is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle, and lower classes. I mention all these terms for they form, in some ways, the backdrop, to the 4th estate. For more on social class go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_class
The term, fourth estate, is partly based on, or makes reference to, what historically in Europe were the Three Estates of the Realm. In Burke's 1787 coining he would have been making reference to the traditional three estates of: (a) Parliament, (b) The Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and (c) the Commons. Readers wanting more detail on Carlyle, Burke & the 4th estate historically can easily google the information. Wikipedia is but one of several useful resources here. Go to this link for more on the origins of the 4th estate, the press: http://nicholadeane.wordpress.com/tag/fscott-fitzgerald/
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde(1854-1900) was an Irish writer and poet. His writing is full of quips and aphorisms. Oscar Wilde's clever quip about the press may find resonance with readers here. He wrote: “In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is certainly an improvement. But still it is very bad, wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say & says it. We are dominated by Journalism." This bleak view may have some truth in this 21st century, but the subject is far more complex than to be covered by this clever quip from Oscar Wilde.
4TH ESTATE: BEING REVOLUTIONIZED
This 4th estate, the journalism industry, is changing at a rapid pace, especially as the 21st century opened a little more than a decade ago. The newspaper, as a journalistic form, is failing from collapsing advertising support as people are finding free news online, on TV and th radio. Since the last years of the 20th century, the world-wide-web has been transforming the old 4th estate. The newspaper has been going through an extended and extensive morphing process. The media have also become something different than they used to be. There is both serious stuff by the bucket-full, and entertainment or infotainment by the truck-load. In the world of infotainment extensive time is given to coverage of things like celebrities and the movies, having fun and being entertained in a host of ways.
The Networked Fourth Estate is the set of practices, organizing models, and technologies that are associated with the free press. They provide a public check on the branches of government. They differ from the traditional press, and the traditional fourth estate, in that they have a diverse set of actors & printing sources instead of a small number of major presses. These actors include small for-profit media organizations, non-profit media organizations, and academic centers. In addition, there is now a wide range of networks of individuals who participate in and distribute the media products and processes; some are within large traditional organizations, and some are not.
The Fifth Estate is a modern extension of the three classical Estates of the Realm. The Fifth Estate is most strongly associated with bloggers, media outlets, & journalists who/that operate outside of the mainstream media. They are often in opposition to the mainstream media. This Fifth Estate may also include political groups & other groups outside of the mainstream in their views & functions in society. The term "Fourth Estate" emerged in reference to forces outside the established power structure, and that term is now most commonly used in reference to the independent press or media. For more on all these terms and journalistic sources, both contemporary and historical go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate
The daily news is still a source of information, but it is also a world of fun and melodrama. In, say, the last half-century, 1965 to 2015, and since the arrival of the internet, 1995 to 2015, the daily dose of news has also become characterized more and more by infotainment. But this is not all. This webpage deals with some aspects of this revolutionary transformation. Martin Kaplan, a Professor of Communication at the University of Southern California, recently spent time recording and studying local news in Los Angeles to see how much time was devoted to each type of news story. The results were found to be: sports, weather, crime, and countless trivial stories. For more details on this extensive subject go to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate
MY ONLINE JOURNALISM
I have now written and published 100s of online pieces at 100s of internet sites. I see myself as a literary journalist and cultural analyst. I am one of the first or perhaps, now in this second decade of the 21st century, one of the second generation of journalist/critics who are spreading their range of operations deep into the web. This is a fascinating new development in the cultural internationalism among the nations of the world. It answers the same impulse that led, say, some of the more literarily inclined, the writers and would-be-journalists of the sixties generation in countries like Australia to book a passage overseas on lumbering ships or, in the case of my more literarily inclined fellow Canadians, to head for: (i) the USA in their cars or on a train, or (ii) the UK on a plane, to one of the big cities or towns in the USA or the UK where they could try & ply their literary and budding-journalism skills.
For this most recent crew, these new generations of journalists-of-the-internet, whose ranks I have joined in the last dozen years or so, all they have to do is log on. I am only too aware, though, that the news media are seen by many to be in irreversible decline. Can journalists be trusted? Can quality journalism be saved? Many are now asking this question. To read what several top thinkers said at a recent conference: "A Wake Up Call: Can Quality & Trust Save Journalism?" go to: http://restoringthetrust.org/ According to a survey conducted by YouGov for Prospect Magazine, there has been a noticeable slide in public trust of journalists in this 21st century. That distrust goes right across the board: TV & newspapers, the internet and radio. For an article at one of the blogs by one of the journalists of The Guardian on this subject go to: http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2010/sep/23/newspapers-dailytelegraph .
That part of the world which reads and has access to the internet is suddenly at the fingertips of any one like myself who belong of these new generations of internet journalists. Even if many in the fields of journalism, many of the traditional journalists and news-media, are now on the nose, each would-be writer tries to find their market, their readership, through whatever search engine optimization techniques he or she can muster. This world of cyberspace has been at my finger-tips in these first years of the 21st century. One of my many interests now lies in creating webpages, part of webpages, websites and part of websites, and having them as, what you might call, spaces of control and, at the same time, spaces of great freedom that contribute to and satisfy my human urge to make the world comprehensive and comprehendible. Another of the apparent paradoxes that exist on the Internet is the idea that it is both globally expansive and locally situated. I can create my website, but I can also feel as though I am plugged into the wider world. Both of these paradoxes, freedom/control and global/local, assist in our understanding of the Web as a tool that makes the world both graspable and expansive at the same time.
To paraphrase the German technology critic Norbert Bolz, there is no more any difference between the mechanical & the organic world; technology has the self-evident nature of limbs. We are uncontradictedly fused to our tools like the mouse and the computer keyboard, & the fusion with these computing technologies expands our understanding of space as material, conceptual, and lived to the point where Mark Nunes can characterize it as the "banality of the network in everyday life".(Mark Nunes, Cyberspaces of Everyday Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006)
I retired by degrees over a six year period(1999-2005) from FT, PT and most volunteer work which had occupied me in one way or another for half a century, 1949 to 1999. I reinvented myself. Being an online journalist and online blogger, online writer and author, are just four of my new roles in these years of my retirement, roles which involve my literary, my intellectual, my reasoning, capacities in all sorts of ways & in all sorts of mediums and modes, manners and sites, forums and discussion locations in cyberspace.
I was far too busy back in the 1960s, certainly far from confident enough, to ply my potential literary talents in journalism. I did not feel confident enough to earn my living by writing in any capacity, & so I went into teaching. That, of course, was not the only, or even the main, reason I went into teaching. Very few were able to earn a living by writing and, so it was, that they went into fields like teaching or social work, psychology or medicine, law or engineering, science or taxi-driving, any one of dozens of forms of business or commercial work, anything to pay the bills and participate in the consumer society, so to speak. In those 1960s I finished my university degree, started my teaching career and my first marriage, dealt with the first episodes of bipolar disorder, & worked-out the initial stages and phases of my relationship with a religion which claimed to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic Faiths. This Faith was claiming my time & my energies by the 1960s in connection with all sorts of activities in the real world. Now, much of my writing time is spent, in one way or another, giving a voice to my understanding of Baha'i ideas and concepts, plans and programs, history and organization, that raise the profile of the Baha'i Faith in cyberspace &, in the process, articulate a Baha'i approach to the tempest facing contemporary society. I write, though, for many reasons not just to promote the beliefs and causes that stir my mind & heart.
Joyce Carol Oates(1938-) is an American author who published her first book in 1963, the year I began to take writing seriously myself. She has since published over forty novels, as well as a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. “Writing is a rebellious act," says Oates, "and artists are rebels.” She made this remark upon being awarded the 'Norman Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Fiction' on October 4, 2012. She continued: "There is something transgressive about being a serious writer. There is a spiritual component to serious art but there is also a warrior ethic—you must go places where you are not welcome. And critics, reviewers, and others will say, 'No one has done this before, or they haven’t done it quite the way you are doing it—therefore, it has to be wrong.' A writer must have a certain resilience." She went on:
"And that’s where Norman Mailer's enormous ego came into play and was very valuable. But, at the same time, Norman possessed ardor & passion; he had a spiritual, one might say a visionary, commitment to his work. I like to feel that I am like Norman in this. I feel that in my own writing I am trying to bear witness for people who can’t speak for themselves, for one or another reason—they don’t possess the “literary” language; they are not educated, they are disenfranchised politically—they may not even be alive—they’ve had experiences that have rendered them mute. It’s up to the writer and the artist to give voice to these people. There are two impulses in art. One impulse is rebellious and transgressive where the person, the writer or the artist, explores regions in which they are not wanted, and they are often punished for their rebelliousness, their unconventional ways. But the other impulse is a way of sympathy. These creative types try to evoke sympathy for people who may be different from us—whom we don’t know. Art using this impulse is a way of breaking down the barriers between people. These two seemingly antithetical impulses toward rebellion and toward sympathy come together in art."
Each creative person uses one or the other of the impulses, the motivations. From my personal perspective everyone is an artist, a creative person, each in their own way. The portion of some lies in a thimble and for others it is a gallon measure. I'll quote in this paragraph from Rollo May because his ideas will also bring readers closer to my raison d'etre for writing. Rollo May(1909-1994) was an American existential psychologist and author of the influential book Love and Will(1969). I read his book and taught its contents back in the early-to-mid-1970s. May has often been associated with humanistic psychology, existentialist philosophy and, alongside Viktor Frankl, he was a major proponent of existential psychotherapy. “In order to be open to creativity," he wrote, "one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone." I am never less alone than when I am alone; I give myself to solitude as a thirsty-man to water now in the evening of my life. This solitude is filled with writing and reading, researching and editing, poetizing and publishing.
"Finding the center of strength within ourselves is, in the long run, the best contribution we can make to our fellow men," wrote May; one person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs, not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses & supermen, but persons who can "be", that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.”(Man's Search for Himself) “The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt." (The Courage to Create, p. 21) “Human freedom involves our capacity to pause between the stimulus and response &, in that pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight. The capacity to create ourselves, based upon this freedom, is inseparable from consciousness or self-awareness.(The Courage to Create, p.100) “A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence.” My writing is my act of self-creation and part of the way I make sense of the world.
I was a member of the first generation of writers for whom a university education was the norm, the starting point, for their literary careers. There were also non-degree creative writing programs, like the one at Stanford University, where some writers would develop lifelong friendships with fellow writers. Ken Keysey did this, and his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest came out the year my travelling-pioneering life began for the Canadian Baha'i community in 1962. His friendships included people I did not come to hear of for decades, names like: Ken Babbs, Larry McMurtry, Wendell Berry, Ed McClanahan, Gurney Norman, and Robert Stone. I did not seriously entertain enrolling in any creative writing program back in the 1960s. By late 1965, as I was heading into my last year of a three year BA arts degree, it was becoming more important for me to chose a career, some line of work. I could have taken some time off, as many did and do, to travel before settling into the world of paid employment. But, in late 1965 I decided to become a primary school teacher.
I wanted a line of work that was: (i) an improvement over all the summer jobs I had had for the previous 15 years, 1950 to 1965; (ii) something I could seriously see as a career, (iii) something that would absorb both my mind and my heart, and (iv) a way of making money, a good salary. In October 1965 I decided to live among the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic, to leave the places where I had grown-up from childhood into early adulthood, and to teach primary school. A year later, in late 1966, I also began to think of marrying, and I would need a way of supporting my wife. In June 1967 I graduated with my B.Ed.; in August I married, and in September I began teaching Inuit kids on Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world.
The 1960s were a time of international cultural and social upheaval. A new range of cultural influences: drugs and pop art, sexual, women's and gay liberation, and the predominantly American counter-culture, influenced a new generation of writers in Canada, in Australia & the USA. Bush realism in Australia gave way to previously censored subject material: sex, drugs, anti-Vietnam War sentiment, & innovative forms of writing. Readers at my website who have the interest can investigate these issues through the works of some of the key writers of this period. Beginning in October 1965, though, I was on my way into the teaching profession and there I would stay for the next 40 years with short periods in other lines of work in FT and PT jobs, and short periods out-of-work due to my bipolar disability.
I now write in a style and manner that I have used for decades, and in what I have come to define as: a soft, a gentle, a well-meaning didacticism that does not try to hit people over the head with my views. After more than half a century, 1949 to 2004, in classrooms as a: PT, FT, internal or external studies student, a teacher or tutor, adult educator or lecturer, editor or researcher, reader or scholar; after two decades in cyberspace, 1995 to 2015, working in many of these several roles, I now possess a general instructional or teaching tone and style refined over some 65 years of writing. Of course, there are many teaching and instructional styles and tones. Each person works out their own.
Didacticism is a philosophy of writing that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature and other types of art. The term has its origin in the Ancient Greek word 'didaktikos' meaning "related to education & teaching". It signifies learning in a fascinating & intriguing manner. This style, of course, has been quite acceptable in journalism's cultural pages for decades, because of the belief that arts & culture have formative and humanizing powers. Like each teacher, each writer, plies his or her trade in their own way; their work in journalism & cultural criticism has their own tone and style, manner and mode, peculiarity and presence, ambience and atmosphere.
Didacticism is all over cyberspace, and so I have lots of company as I go about my many online roles. This is especially true in my blogging and journalistic cyberspace roles. Cyberspace is filled with all manner of stuff, though, of which journalistic didacticism is but one. From the most gross and inarticulate users of English to the highly refined & sophisticated, the internet is the home of Everyman & Everyman's English. An informative, a quasi-teaching tone, has been prevalent among cultural reporters and critics for many a long year, indeed for centuries, arguably as far back as the ancients of Greece and Rome in the West, to say nothing of the other ancient civilizations from the Syriac to the Hindu, from the Mesopatamian to the Sinic. It is certainly acceptable to me, and it has been part of my MO, part of my MO's central pillars & edifaces, for two decades on the internet, and at least three, perhaps as many as four, decades before that in real space. I now offer my journalistic wares by the 10s, the 100s, indeed, the 1000s, of pages to anyone who comes my way and takes more than a casual interest in my offerings.
"Every critic," H.L. Mencken wrote in his notebooks, "is in the position, so to speak, of God. He can smite without being smitten. He challenges the work of other men; he is exposed to no comparable challenge of his own." This is only true in part in cyberspace where what I write is often challenged, indeed, it is often the object of such criticism as to occasionally sear my emotional equipment. Mencken continues: "The more reputations the critic breaks, the more his own reputation is secured, and there is no lawful agency to determine, as he himself professes to determine in the case of other men, whether his motives are honest & his methods are fair." Mencken was a heavy dude. I take a softer, a gentler, stance. Henry Louis, Mencken (1880-1956) was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life & culture, & scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century. Many of his books remain in print. For more on Mencken go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._L._Mencken
A recent investigation into cultural reporters in several western countries showed that they believe the arts in general have teaching and learning, healing, indeed, spiritual powers. Such cultural reporters see themselves, sometimes if not always, as encouraging ‘sensitivity’, and providing a path for ‘understanding the world and the human condition’. Most of these same critics & reporters see themselves as distanced from the acidic cynicism of other realms of journalism. They ‘take on a crusading role’ and ‘construct themselves as moral saviours, guiding the public towards a better existence through the arts’. I, too, have no trouble identifying with those roles and purposes for my online journalistic writing. I have been a moral crusader for decades in my own way developing, as I have travelled, my own form and style, method and MO. I leave it to readers to Google my many offerings and assess whether my way of going about things is suited to their ears and minds, or not. I like to see my crusading, my evangelistic, my zealous, offerings as softer and less invasive than some of the more strident & noisy, obtrusive & proselytizing public writers and authors, critics and intellectuals.
The belief in the emancipatory powers of culture is the basis of a recurrent image in our emerging global culture of the intellectual and critic as a teacher, and of the culture-journalist as educator. Some people define the intellectual and the critic, the commentator and connoisseur, those who see themselves as among the cognoscenti, as disseminators of knowledge and opinion, indeed, heralds in different sorts of ways of the future; others define these literary types as spiritual leaders of the people although, in places like Australia, this is far too grandiose a way of putting it. Still others say that the function of the critic-intellectuals, these literary enthusiasts, these modern sophists, at this time in history, is to clarify and illustrate, explain and help people to attain moral values and insights into the individual and society. While I, like many other Australians, have trouble accepting the role, the definition, of myself as an intellectual, learning and the cultural attainments of the mind have been part and parcel of my aspirations since my late teens and early twenties in the 1960s. This is more than half a century of my life. I have carried this attitude from the classroom where I spent that half a century, 1949 to 1999, into my online journalistic and blogging work in the last 15 years.
I have kept no systematic record of my prolific journalism which, like the journalism of George Bernard Shaw, is "all over the place, out of sight and out of mind". Those who might decide to set out and retrieve my pieces, and fit them into a pattern will get no help from me. The exercise would be far too belaboured and would require far too much of my time in this the evening of my life. In my present medicated and medical state, I am only able to find 6 to 8 hours a day to engage in literary work; trying to organize and list, catelogue and systematize the wide range of my journalistic and quasi-journalistic work would be tedious in the extreme. That is one, perhaps the main, reason who I utilize my website as the central hub of my online literary work.
Shaw offered some help & encouragement to those who wanted to retrieve his journalistic work but, we are informed by Michael Holroyd, such retrievers, however dedicated, usually died before Shaw did. Some 40 years ago in the London Review of Books(Vol. 6 No. 4, 1 March 1984), Michael Holroyd commented briefly on Shaw's journalism. In 1984 my own journalism, at least journalism of any substance, had just begun in a newspaper in the small town of Katherine in Australia's Northern Territory. Being a journalist back then in such a small town was like being a journalist on the moon. Holroyd, in making his comments on Shaw's journalism, was reviewing: (i) Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography, Vols I & II by Dan Laurence(Oxford, 1100 pages, December 1983); (ii) Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: 1856-1907 by Margery Morgan(Profile, 50 pages, 1982); and (iii) The Art and Mind of Shaw: Essays in Criticism by A.M. Gibbs(Macmillan, 225 pages, 1983).
The idea of a writer and author, as someone with a significant degree of learning and life-experience is far from new. The origins of this idea, this role for a writer, goes back long before the nineteenth century, when intellectuals, with greater or lesser passion, assigned themselves a civilizing, an educative, mission. The images of literature as formative, of culture as educative, and of people with some expertise and learning as journalistic teachers, were central to more than one literary publication back in the 1950s and 1960s. This was true in many countries with highly varied, very different, levels of cultural development. I go back to the '50s because that was the period when the formative function of journalism, especially cultural, literary journalism, came in my life. By the late '50s I was in my mid-teens and beginning to enjoy newspaper, cultural, journalism in The Globe and Mail and The Hamilton Spectator. This latter paper serviced Hamilton, Burlington & surrounding communities, communities where I lived until I left home for the wide wide world in 1966. The Globe & Mail was & is Canada's national newspaper with a weekly readership of about a million. By the autumn of 1963 I had begun to expand my reading of newspapers in the library-newspaper-reading-room at McMaster University in Hamilton while I was in the first year of an arts degree.
There are several different forms of journalism, all with different intended audiences. In modern society, "prestige" journalism is said to serve the role of a "fourth estate," acting as watchdogs on the workings of government. My online journalistic work is not of this type, at least not for the most part. I do not see myself and my writing in any way as watching over and commenting on the workings of those actors in the world of partisan politics. This is done by the audio-visual bucket-full in the print and electronic media. There is no need for me to add to that immense industry, an industry that occupies the media 24/7 these days. I am involved in several other forms of journalism. Each of these forms feature different formats and cater to different intended audiences. My online journalistic work falls into categories 1, 4, 5, 8, and 9 below, marked with an asterisk(*):
1.* Advocacy journalism – writing to advocate particular viewpoints or influence the opinions of the audience.
2. Broadcast journalism – writing or speaking which is intended to be distributed by radio or television broadcasting, rather than only in written form for readers.
3. Drone journalism – use of drones to capture journalistic footage.
4.* Gonzo journalism – first championed by journalist Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism is a "highly personal style of reporting".
5.* Investigative journalism – writing which seeks to add extra information to explain, or better describe the people and events of a particular topic.
6. Tabloid journalism – writing which uses opinionated and heated, wild and exaggerated claims.
7. Yellow journalism or sensationalism– writing which emphasizes exaggerated claims or rumors.
8.* Social media and Social Journalism
9.* Citizen journalism
GONZO JOURNALISM is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word "gonzo" is believed to have been first used in 1970 while I was still recuperating from a severe episode of bipolar disorder and beginning again to get into the world of writing. The word "gonzo" was used to describe an article by Hunter Thompson, who later popularized the style. It is an energetic first-person participatory writing style in which the author is a protagonist, and it draws its power from a combination of both social critique and self-satire. It has since been applied to other subjective artistic endeavors. It came into existence just as I was planning to move from Canada to Australia & was engaged, myself, in some of my first literary efforts for newspapers & magazines, newsletters & journals. I remember taking a summer course in 1970 with the Education Department of Ontario in open plan education. Those literary efforts to which I referred above were, it seems to me in retrospect, few and far between. For more on this form of journalism go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzo_journalism
The recent rise of SOCIAL MEDIA in the 21st century from, say, 2001 to 2015, has resulted in arguments to reconsider journalism as a process rather than as a particular kind of news product. In this perspective, journalism is participatory, a process distributed among multiple authors, involving journalists as well as the socially mediating public, & resulting in a plethora of online products. I am now registered at over 8000 internet sites, all part of the social media or tangential to it. I have contributed literally millions of words at these sites. These social media have become an important part of my literary, my published, material. Sites like Facebook and Twitter, and many other SNS, tend to trivialize and personalize communication in forms like: 'I like this' and 'I don't like that', or 'I poke you' and 'here I am with my dog Spot'.
For content contributors, the benefits of participating in social media have gone beyond simply social sharing to building reputation and bringing in career opportunities and monetary income. Due to this fact, I have found sites like Facebook and Twitter, however trivializing and tattling, gossiping and gabbling, blabing and blurting, bubbling and blubbering, pattering and prattling, to be useful in building-up my online readership for my myriad literary products across cyberspace. In July 2014, after being on Facebook for six years, I unfriended more than 150 Facebook-friends. I did this just before I turned 70 because Facebook had become, for me, more of a distraction than anything else. For a useful overview of the concept of social media go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media
Social-media technologies take on many different forms including magazines, Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, social networks, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. Technologies include blogging, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-posting, music-sharing, crowd-sourcing and voice over IP, to name a few. Social network aggregation can integrate many of the platforms in use. I utilize some of these different forms. There are many changes in the social media world that are the focus of an emerging field known as 'technoself studies'. Technoself studies, commonly referred to as TSS, is an emerging, interdisciplinary domain of scholarly research dealing with all aspects of human identity in a technological society. For more on TSS go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technoself
SOCIAL JOURNALISM is a media model consisting of a hybrid of professional journalism, contributor and reader content. It is similar to open publishing platforms, like Twitter & WordPress.com, except that some or most content is also created and/or screened by professional journalists. Examples include Forbes.com, Medium, BuzzFeed and Gawker. The model, which in some instances has generated monthly audiences in the tens of millions, has been discussed as one way for professional journalism to thrive. Writing in Re/code, Jonathan Glick, CEO of Sulia, said the model of publishers as platforms or "platisher" is "on the rise." Glick cites as examples Medium (from Twitter co-foundersEvan Williams & Biz Stone), Vox Media, Sulia, Skift, First Look Media (backed by eBay founderPierre Omidyar) and BuzzFeed.
On 12 March 2014, Mark Little, the CEO of Storyful.com, now a division of News Corp., proposed "10 Principles that Power Social Journalism." One of these principles and forms of content was: UGC, User Generated Content. "UGC", said Little "is governed by the same legal and ethical code as any other content." He continued: "The currency of social journalism is authenticity not authority. We cannot be experts in every subject." In an interview in The New York Times, the editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, said The Guardian was in the process of converting into a platform as well as a publisher. "For years, news organizations had a quasi-monopoly on information simply because they had the means of distribution. If, as a journalist, you are not intensely curious about what has been created by people who are not journalists, then you’re missing out on a lot," said Rusbridger. For more on social journalism, which I have now been engaged with, perhaps tangentially or indirectly, in a variety of ways for a decade go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_journalism The first "social journalism" platform at a major media company was FastCompany.com, in 2008. After the platform launched, in its first six months, FastCompany.com signed up 2,000 bloggers and 50,000 members. I work quite independently as a blogger and internet poster. It could be argued, then, and for various reasons, that my work is not a part of social journalism.
The concept of CITIZEN JOURNALISM also known as: "public", "participatory", "democratic", "guerrilla," or "street" journalism, is based upon public citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news & information." Similarly, Courtney C. Radsch, a scholar and freelance journalist whose work focuses on the Arab media and politics, defines citizen journalism as: "an alternative and activist form of newsgathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions. Such online journalists see shortcomings in the professional journalistic field; they use similar journalistic practices to mainstream journalists, but they are driven by different objectives & ideals; they also rely on alternative sources of legitimacy than traditional or mainstream journalism."
Jay Rosen(1956-), a media critic, writer, & professor of journalism at New York University, proposes a simpler definition: "CITIZEN JOURNALISM exists when the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another." Using this definition I see myself as a citizen journalist, but only of a certain type. The following does not define my type of citizen journalism, but describes it to a certain extent.
Citizen journalism should not be confused with COMMUNITY JOURNALISM or CIVIC JOURNALISM, both of which are practiced by professional journalists, and by people like myself. COLLABORATIVE JOURNALISM is also a separate concept and is the practice of professional and non-professional journalists working together. Citizen journalism is a specific form of both citizen media and user-generated-content. By juxtaposing the term “citizen,” with its attendant qualities of civic mindedness and social responsibility, with that of “journalism,” which refers to a particular profession. Radsch argues that this term best describes a particular form of ONLINE AND DIGITAL JOURNALISM. Such a form of journalism is conducted by amateurs. This is because it underscores the link between the practice of journalism and its relation to the political and public sphere. All of this is somewhat wordy and complex with blurred boundaries and terminological ambiguities.
New media technology, such as social networking and media-sharing websites, in addition to the increasing prevalence of new media technology like cell-phones, have made citizen journalism more accessible to people worldwide. Due to this availability of technology, citizens often can report breaking news more quickly than traditional media reporters. Notable examples of citizen journalism reporting from major world events are, the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Without addressing the failures of professional journalism that often have led to the rise of citizen journalism, critics of the phenomenon, including professional journalists, claim that citizen journalism is unregulated, too subjective, amateurish, and haphazard in quality and coverage. While this type of journalism is seen more and more, it is not a type in which I am active.
Digital journalism also known as online journalism is a contemporary form of journalism where editorial content is distributed via the Internet as opposed to publishing via print or broadcast. What constitutes 'digital journalism' is debated by scholars. However the primary product of journalism, which is news and features on current affairs, is presented solely or in combination as text, audio,video and some interactive forms, and disseminated through digital media platforms. Fewer barriers to entry, lowered distribution costs, and diverse computer networking technologies have led to the widespread practice of digital journalism. It has democratized the flow of information that was previously controlled by traditional media including newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. For more of this overview on online journalism go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_journalism
BuzzFeed on West 23rd Street in Manhattan has stirred more interest, resentment, or envy than any other among first and second generation digital news sites. “Why BuzzFeed Is the Most Important News Organization in the World,” ran the headline atop a recent post by a widely read tech blogger. The answer boiled down to BuzzFeed’s having found a business model that allows it to enjoy “true journalistic independence.” That model is “sponsored content”—copy that is produced jointly by BuzzFeed and an advertiser to blend in with editorial copy, with a small, inconspicuous identifier of the sponsor. In 2014, BuzzFeed’s revenues surpassed $100 million. At least that is what the company says, although it’s privately held and BuzzFeed publishes no financial records. They’ve done better at harnessing the unique powers of the Internet, and they appear to be the face of the future of journalism. For more on BuzzFeed go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jun/25/digital-journalism-next-generation/
IN THE DEPTHS OF THE NET
In the Depths of the Net by Sue Halpern is an article which appeared in The New York Review of Books(8/10/'15). The Dark Net: Inside The Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett(Melville House, 300 pages, 2015) is a new book and Halpern writes: "Early this year, a robot in Switzerland purchased ten tablets of the illegal drug MDMA, better known as “ecstasy,” from an online marketplace and had them delivered through the postal service to a gallery in St. Gallen where the robot was then set up. The drug buy was part of an installation called “Random Darknet Shopper,” which was meant to show what could be obtained on the “dark” side of the Internet. In addition to ecstasy, the robot also bought a baseball cap with a secret camera, a pair of knock-off Diesel jeans, and a Hungarian passport, among other things." Halpern continues:
"Passports stolen and forged, heroin, crack cocaine, semiautomatic weapons, people who can be hired to use those weapons, computer viruses, and child pornography—especially child pornography—are all easily obtained in the shaded corners of the Internet. For example, in the interest of research, Jamie Bartlett—the author of The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld, a picturesque tour of this disquieting netherworld—successfully bought a small amount of marijuana from a dark-Net site; anyone hoping to emulate him will find that the biggest dilemma will be with which seller—there are scores—to do business. My own forays to the dark Net include visits to sites offering counterfeit drivers’ licenses, methamphetamine, a template for a US twenty-dollar bill, files to make a 3D-printed gun, and books describing how to receive illegal goods in the mail without getting caught. There were, too, links to rape and child abuse videos. According to a study released a few years ago, 80 percent of all dark-Net traffic relates to pedophilia." For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/oct/08/depths-net/
A PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL: I THANK EDWARD SAID
One way of maintaining relative intellectual independence is having the attitude of an amateur instead of a professional. This is a far better attitude and course to take. I thank Edward Said for articulating this practical and personal stance which I take in cyberspace. Edward Said (1935-2003) was a Palestinian American literary theorist and public intellectual who helped found the critical-theory field of postcolonialism. For more on Said go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said "One is moved by causes and ideas that one can actually choose to support," wrote Said back in 1993, "because they conform to values & principles one believes in. I do not consider myself bound by my professional training, & academic expertise," he continued. Go to this link for more of his way of expressing his public stance: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-reith-lectures-speaking-truth
I have been certified for nearly 50 years to teach many subjects at the primary level of the educational systems in both Canada and Australia. In 1973 I began to teach in secondary schools in Australia; in 1974 in post-secondary colleges and universities. From the 1970s to 2000s I taught many subjects in colleges of advanced education, universities, technical and further education institutions, and what are now called polytechnics in some places in Australia. Because I was a generalist and had neither a MA or a PhD, I was no longer qualified, by the 1980s, to teach in universities. Without a PhD, or at least an MA, I was not able to return to working in universities as I had been able to do in those far-off 1970s in that first decade after I graduated from four years of post-secondary education in Ontario Canada.
I write about many broad matters now in this second decade of the 21st century because, as a rank amateur, I am spurred on by commitments that go well beyond my professional career in the teaching profession and the many subjects I taught in humanities & social science programs, as well as programs in the biological & physical sciences. I make a conscious effort now, in these years of my retirement from the teaching profession and the reinvention of myself as a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, reader & scholar, online blogger & journalist, to acquire a new and wider audience for my views. After I had also retired from all PT, casual teaching by 2006, I acquired a readership in the millions. This is something I would not have believed possible in those fin de siecle years of the 1990s or, indeed, at any other time in my adult life beginning as that adult life did in the far, far-off 1960s.
In July 1993, as I was just beginning to eye my retirement from the world of teaching & paid employment, Edward Said considered what he regarded as the basic question for the intellectual: how does one speak the truth? The following is an edited text of his 21 July 1993 Radio 4 broadcast in "The Reith Lectures: Speaking Truth To Power." He began: "What are these amateur forays into the public sphere all about, really? Is the intellectual galvanised into intellectual action by primordial, local, instinctive loyalties to one's race, one's people, or one's religion? Is there some more universal and rational set of principles that can, and perhaps do, govern how one speaks and writes? In effect, I am asking the basic question for the intellectual: how does one speak the truth? What truth? For whom & where? We must begin by saying, by admitting, that there is no system or method broad and certain enough to provide the intellectual with direct answers to these questions." I quote Edward Said, who was born a Palestinian in Jerusalem in Mandatory Palestine; he was an American citizen through his father. Said spent his childhood in Jerusalem and Cairo where he attended elite British schools. Subsequently he left for the United States, where he obtained a bachelor's degree from Princeton and a doctorate in English literature from Harvard.
I thank Said for his perspective on the writing of the public intellectual. Said joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1963, where he became professor of English & comparative literature in 1991. Much of the content of these paragraphs come from Edward Said in the early 1990s. This was just at the time that I was beginning to reinvent myself from teacher and lecturer, tutor and adult educator, to writer * author, poet & publisher. I now have, as I say above, millions of readers & what Said spoke about more than 20 years ago in 1993 applies now, a fortiori, to my writing in the public sphere. For more on Said go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said
"Take as a starting point the whole, extremely disputatious, matter of objectivity, or accuracy, or facts," writes Said. "In 1988 the American historian Robert Novick published a massive volume whose title dramatised the quandary we are in insofar as facts and objectivity are concerned," Said continued in discussing the issue of truth or fact. "Novick dramatised this quandary with exemplary efficiency. The book was entitled That Noble Dream, and it was subtitled The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession. Drawing on materials taken from a century of historiographic enterprise in the United States, Novick showed how the very nub of historical investigation, the ideal of objectivity, by which a historian seizes the opportunity to render facts as realistically and accurately as possible, gradually evolved into a mass of competing claims and counterclaims. This century of historians wore down any semblance of agreement, by those experts writing in the field, as to what objectivity was to the merest figleaf, an entity that hardly existed. Objectivity had gradually become a chimera." Twenty-five years later some might call the claim to objectivity a dog's-breakfast.
"Objectivity has had to do service," writes Said, "in the Cold War as the American, as opposed to Communist, truth. Objectivity in peacetime had to do service as the objective truth of all sorts of competing and separate groups: women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, gays, white men, and so on; as well as each historical school: Marxist, establishment, deconstructionist, cultural, inter alia." After such a babble of knowledges and objectivities, what possible convergence could there be? Novick asks. He concludes mournfully that: 'as a broad community of discourse, as a community of scholars united by common aims, common standards, and common purposes, the discipline of history had ceased to exist. The professor of history, or a professor in any one of the many humanities and social science subjects, was described in the last verse of the Book of Judges. Said quoted from The Bible: 'In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.' "
One of the main intellectual activities of the last two centuries has been the questioning, not to say undermining, of authority. Robert Nisbet describes this process, in what I have always found to be his delightful prose-style, in his 1975 work Twilight of Authority. Robert Nisbet(1913-1996) was an American sociologist, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Vice-Chancellor at the University of California, Riverside and Albert Schweitzer Professor at Columbia University. For more on Nisbet go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Nisbet To add to Novick's findings we would have to say that not only did a consensus disappear on what constituted objective reality, but a lot of traditional authorities, including God, were in the main swept away. There has even been an influential school of philosophers, among whom the French thinker, Michel Foucault, ranks very high, who say that to speak of an author at all say, for example, as in the author of Milton's poems, is a highly tendentious, not to say ideological, overstatement. It is within this intellectual milieux, this matrix of ideas, that I play, I ply, my role as public intellectual in the interstices of cyberspace.
Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which I know to be the right one, but which I decide not to take. My general position is quinessentially non-partisan; that is my principled position. I not only do not want to appear too politically partisan, I do not take politically partisan positions. I am not afraid of seeming or being controversial; I do not need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; I do not aim to be or to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, or moderate; I am not inspired by the hope to being asked back, or by being seen as an expert to be consulted. I have no aspirations to be on a board or a prestigious committee, or to remain within the responsible mainstream. I also do not live in the hope of getting an honorary degree, a big prize, or perhaps even an ambassadorship.
For an intellectual these habits of mind are corrupting par excellence, says Edward Said. If anything can denature, neutralise and finally kill a passionate intellectual life, it is these considerations, internalised and, so to speak, in the driver's seat. Obviously, I want to speak my piece where it can be heard best; and also I want it represented in such a way as to affiliate with an ongoing and actual process, for instance, the cause of peace and justice. That is often difficult to do in cyberspace with its 3 billion users and 1 billion websites as of September 2014. The intellectual's voice is often lonely, often soft and quiet, but it has resonance. This resonance is due to the fact that my voice associates itself freely with the reality of a movement, the aspirations of a people, and the common pursuit of a shared ideal. For me that movement, that people, and that shared ideal is found in the Baha'i Faith, the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions.
READING BOOKS AND THE END OF PRINT CULTURE
The transition from print culture, to whatever comes next after, or during, these heady days of all this new print and electronic technology is any man's guess. For those who love ink & paper too much to easily say goodbye to books & hardcopy print journalism there is much hypothesizing. Writing articles for any one of literally 100s of online newspapers & magazines, as many 1000s of paid-journalists do, these journalists have the advantage that their newspapers or magazines have fact checkers who are on the cases of these journalists from line to line. This provides these seasoned and not-so-seasoned journalists with a secondary source of research. But the basic spade-work is often and usually all their's; often both the spade-work & the writing is admirable, a wonderful read. There is often a mystery, however-not all of the techniques of these journalists are in plain sight. The rhythm of their prose, which holds even the longest of their factual essays together in one piece, is often poetic with its own aesthetic. In that aspect, they can’t be copied, as some of their imitators have lamentably proved. It isn’t enough to look closely: you have to know when to look up, and look around. One such journalist is Nicholson Baker. You can read his "Annals of Reading A New Page: Can the Kindle really improve on the book?" See The New Yorker on 3/8/'09 at:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/03/090803fa_fact_baker
Publishing is the process of production and disseminationof literature, music, or information — the activity of making information available to the general public. In some cases, authors may be their own publishers, meaning: originators and developers of content also provide media to deliver and display the content for the same. Also, the word publisher can refer to the individual who leads a publishing company or an imprint or to a person who owns/heads a magazine. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publishing
The word “publish” no doubt conjures up all sorts of anxieties in most writers and academics. It first rings through the head as a command to produce, to make, to compose—and underlines its necessity. Publish implies an invocation of engagement with its sister noun “public.” It also suggests an interchange and exchange between an audience of readers and the produced texts, leading to something that has been called a “sphere” in its grandiose claims and a “community” in its slightly more modest conceit. To publish is to produce a different form of conversation, one that is abstracted from the oral into the written and then presumably back out into both written and spoken, thereby producing new circuits of interchange and exchange.
Circulating through the concept of publish are a number of other associations. There is an industry that has organised what appears in printed form for centuries. To publish has often involved passing through the various gatekeepers, some economic, some cultural, and some connected to knowledge societies. And publish, as a concept, thus also has complicated relationships to authors and ownership, as forms of intellectual property and copyright have organised the distribution of published materials. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/74
JOURNAL OF MEDIA ECOLOGY(JME)
The 12th volume of JME probes the boundaries of media ecology and the digital media world. The volume explores how the ideas of seminal scholars, theorists and philosophers, from Freud to Foucault and Lévi-Strauss to Latour, can be applied to media ecology. In this issue of JME Adriana Braga and Robert K. Logan assess Sigmund Freud's possible influence on the thinking of Marshall McLuhan. They explore parallels in their ideas and in the fact that both men were battling invisible forces. These invisible forces are unnoticed and possess subliminal effects. For McLuhan these effects are found in the media. For Freud they are expressed in repressed memories and the unconscious. Similarly, Robert K. Blechman compares Marshall McLuhan's Tetrad with Claude Lévi-Strauss's Canonical Formula to understand how technological transformations operate in people's minds without their being aware. In that same issue of JME Yoni Van den Eede compares the work of Bruno Latour with that of McLuhan noting considerable similarities in their essential premises.
Generally speaking, a tetrad is any set of four things. In Laws of Media (1988) and The Global Village(1989), published posthumously, Marshall McLuhan summarized his ideas about media in a concise tetrad of media effects. The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss has formulated a theory of the structure of myths which has been difficult to interpret, and is somewhat controversial. Go to this link for more of his theory: http://www.selectedworks.co.uk/levistrausmasks.html Go to this link for more on this issue of JME: http://mcluhangalaxy.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/explorations-in-media-ecology-volume-12-published-by-intellect-ltd/
The success of the Internet, especially since the opening of the 21st century, cannot be underestimated. The Web as it stands today is the largest informational artifact in human history. There is an underlying set of institutional powers underpinning the Internet. The control and the management of the Internet by a number of international and national bodies has become a complex question which a recent issue of the online electronic journal Machine Culture examines in detail. Even where the Internet has managed to cling on to its ‘neutrality’, the ever growing power of Google and Facebook make this supposed neutrality less and less a reality. Many corporations now absorb the internet's diversity for the realisation of what you might call 'counter-power' in relation to technological collective intelligence.
Gigaom is a blog-related media company started by Om Malik in San Francisco, California. Malik's blog offers news, analysis, & opinions on startups, emerging technologies, and other technology related topics. In 2011 Om Malik argued that the Internet has removed the monopoly of information distribution from the mainstream media, enabling everyone to distribute contents. It is a change, he tells us, that has led to the proliferation of information and, more broadly, to a ‘democracy of distribution’. For journalism, the removal of the media’s monopoly over information distribution has had mixed effects. On the one hand, it has undermined many large media brands, but on the other new journalistic forms and contents have come to proliferate.
As Jay Rosen has argued in another article/essay in Machine Culture, the more people participate in journalism the better it is going to be (Rosen, 2011). Since the opening of the 21st century in 2001 we have seen some fascinating changes in journalism. These changes include: (i) the development of the Intelligent Transportation System(ITS) in several radical forms like the Independent Media Center(Indymedia), (ii) participatory forms with crowd sourced projects such as the Guardian’s MP expenses story; (iii) open forms like Wikileaks; and (iv) citizen-based forms like collaborative news-blogs. What is more, all of these changes have come, quite literally, at the expense of big media.
Big media have frequently seen their power diminished, their business model undermined, & their credibility questioned. Critics of the increased conglomeration and concentration of media ownership seem to have finally had their worries significantly assuaged. This shift in information provision to the masses appears to be a story of David and Goliath. The big media Goliaths have been brought to their knees by bloggers and engaged citizen-journalists everywhere. For the rest of this article go to: http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/509/524 For an article on "the rise of the platform", as a matter of life itself given its all-encompassing nature, go to the online electronic journal Machine Culture, Volume 14(2013) at: http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/issue/view/25
THE EDUCATIONAL ROLE OF JOURNALISM
The educational role of journalism is increasingly taken with caution and suspicion by many, with gullibility and credulity by others, and with total indifference by another segment of the populace. Journalism is associated with manipulation & indoctrination, in the sense of instilling certain principles and points of view in the readers. Generally the intentions could be classified as: personal or political, commercial or doctinaire. The activity of the journalist presupposes a degree of superiority of the journalist over the reader, but this is not always the case. In Latin America, the assumption of the existence of an unsophisticated mass waiting for enlightenment from some journalistic source immediately rouses the ghosts of colonization. Education has always been considered in that continent as an effective tool of social and political control. It is a control that reinforces existing hierarchies and preserves ‘basic power structures’.(1) This controlling power of education can turn journalism into demagogic manipulation disguized as benevolent action.(1) See: John A. Britton, ‘Molding the Hearts and Minds’, Education, Communications and Social Change in Latin America, City, Jaguar Books, 1994, p. xiii.
Didacticism exists in the content of print and visual material when the views and conduct of the author aim to teach, often in a pedantic or contemptuous manner but often, too, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The content can be both factual and moral material, neutral or biased. It is more acceptable in the cultural pages of the press or the electronic media because of the belief that arts & culture have formative, humanizing powers. This idea is still very prevalent among cultural reporters and critics. A recent investigation into cultural reporters in the United Kingdom showed that these reporters believe arts in general have teaching and healing powers. They believe that the arts encourage ‘sensitivity’, and are a path for ‘understanding the world and the human condition’. Most of these critics and reporters see themselves as distanced from the cynicism and skepticism of other realms of journalism. They ‘take on a crusading role’ and ‘construct themselves as moral saviours, guiding the public towards a better existence through the arts’.(2)--Gemma Harries and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, ‘The culture of arts journalists: elitists, saviors or manic depressives?’, Journalism, no. 8, 2007, p. 635.
AMERICAN JOURNALISM REVIEW
The American Journalism Review(AJR) is an American magazine covering topics in journalism published six times a year by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. The AJR has been owned since the late 1980s by a foundation of the university. It was begun in 1977 as the Washington Journalism Review.
In August 2007, the Washington Post reported that the AJR could shut down by the end of 2007 if it could not reduce its operating deficit, then running at about $200,000 per year, with a total budget of about $800,000. Donors provide at least a third of the budget; the remainder is from advertising. Donations to the AJR in the past three years have included about $1.25 million from a group of news veterans headed by former Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor Eugene Roberts. For more on this journal go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Journalism_Review
Lev Manovich is the author of Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (The MIT Press, 2005), and The Language of New Media (The MIT Press, 2001) which is hailed as "the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan." He is a Professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego and a Director of The Lab for Cultural Analysis at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. Go to this link for the writings of many authors: http://criticaldigitalstudies.net/ ; then click on the word 'Contributors' at top right). Go to this link for a series of Manovich's articles: http://www.manovich.net/articles.php
THE FIFTH ESTATE
The term "Fifth Estate" has no fixed meaning, but is used to describe any class or group in society other than the clergy (First Estate), the nobility (Second Estate), the commoners (Third Estate), and the press (Fourth Estate). It has been used to describe civil society (including trade unions), and the poor or the proletariat. It can also be used to describe media outlets including the blogosphere. These outlets see themselves in opposition to mainstream media and the 'official' press. The term is entirely different in origin and meaning from "Fifth Column", which is used to describe subversive or insurgent elements in a society.
Some media analysts now assert that political pundits constitute a Fifth Estate. Some media researchers argue that bloggers are the Fifth Estate. William H. Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies at University of Oxford, Fellow of Balliol College, and an Emeritus Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California has argued that the Fifth Estate is not simply the blogging community, nor an extension of the media, but 'networked individuals' enabled by the Internet in ways that can hold the other estates accountable. For more on this 5th estate go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Estate
On 3 April 2013 The New York Review of Books and the Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers at the New York Public Library presented a panel discussion celebrating the Review’s 50th anniversary. Five regular contributors discussed their careers, their experience writing for editors Robert Silvers and Barbara Epstein, and their predictions and hopes for the future of literary journalism. excerpts from this program are found at: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/50-years/2013/may/10/literary-journalism-discussion/
The term "journalism genres" refers to various journalism styles, fields or separate genres, in writing accounts of events. Newspapers & periodicals often contain features written by journalists, many of whom specialize in this form of in-depth journalistic writing. Feature articles are usually longer forms of writing; more attention is paid to style than in straight news reports. They are often combined with photographs, drawings or other "art." They may also be highlighted by typographic effects or colors. While most of my journalistic work does not rely on these typographic effects and colours, much of my writing is found in these sub-categories of online journalism.
Writing features can be more demanding than writing straight news stories, because while a journalist must apply the same amount of effort to accurately gather & report the facts of a story, he or she must also find a creative & interesting way to write it. The lead, or first two paragraphs of the story, must grab the reader's attention and yet accurately embody the ideas of the article.
In the last half of the 20th century, in the years of my own writing, the line between straight news reporting and feature writing became blurred. Journalists and publications today experiment with different approaches to writing. Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson are some of these examples. Urban and alternative weekly newspapers go even further in blurring the distinction, and many magazines include more features than straight news.
Some television news shows experimented with alternative formats, and many TV shows that claimed to be news shows were not considered as such by traditional critics, because their content and methods do not adhere to accepted journalistic standards. National Public Radio, on the other hand, is considered a good example of mixing straight news reporting, features, and combinations of the two, usually meeting standards of high quality. Other US public radio news organizations have achieved similar results. A majority of newspapers still maintain a clear distinction between news and features, as do most television and radio news organizations. The following 10 categories of genre journalism illustrate some of the areas within which my work is found. For a detailed description of each category go to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_genres
1 Ambush journalism
2 Celebrity or people journalism
4 Convergence journalism
5 Gonzo journalism
6 Investigative journalism
7 New journalism
8 Science journalism
9 Sports journalism
PERIODICAL LITERARY CULTURE
Today, the periodical literary culture of any developed country is fundamentally different from the one that carried the Modernist campaign into the centre of culture. A literary magazine is a periodical devoted to literature in a broad sense. Literary magazines usually publish short stories, poetry and essays along with literary criticism, book reviews, biographical profiles of authors, interviews and letters. Literary magazines are often called literary journals, or little magazines,terms intended to contrast these with larger, commercial magazines. Little magazines, often called "small magazines", are literary magazines that publish experimental & non-conformist writings of relatively unknown writers. In their outlook they are usually noncommercial. They are often very irregular in their publication. The earliest significant examples are the transcendentalist publication The Dial (1840–44), edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller in Boston, and The Savoy (1896), edited by Arthur Symons in London, which had a revolt against the Victorian Materialism as its agenda. Little magazines played a significant role for the poets who shaped the avant-garde movements like Modernism and Post-modernism across the world in the twentieth century.
The list of literary magazines and journals: periodicals devoted to book reviews, creative nonfiction, essays, poems, short fiction, and similar literary endeavors is now vast. The majority are from the United States, but there are an increasing list from countries of origin outside the U.S.
Those magazines that are exclusively published online are the ones which are the most familiar. Go to this link for the online list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_literary_magazines In the USA the two I enjoy are The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review. But there are many more if one had the time to just read 24/7. In the U.K. there are two significant literary journals, not least the reviewing papers the London Review of Books and the revived Times Literary Supplement. Then, of course, Canada, Australia, to say nothing of other advanced and developed countries, all have their own literary journals.
Books are now trade, and writers are commodities. The common pursuit of true judgment, long the aim of both reader and publisher, has dissolved into a reviewing traffic in factions, generation and gender wars or other agendas. While the more abstract aspects of critical scrutiny have turned into theory & deconstructive enterprise. Criticism has become either a specialized academic discourse concerned not with standards but theories; reviewing is essentially a self-flaunting branch of contemporary journalism, given to celebrity gossip or the pursuit of target reader-groups. The pursuit of standards or definitions of culture has given way to culture in its postmodern sense: the eclectic contents of a Sunday supplement, where books are part of the same spread as film, pop music, food, wine, fashion, alternative life-styles and other designer chic.
Style is no longer the form of an aesthetic knowledge, but an aspect of design and marketing. Modernism, and the critical enterprise that developed out of it, was by definition an elitist or coterie enterprise. Making it new depended not simply on a deconstruction but a reconstruction of the canon, on learning how to read, again. The postmodern norm is pluricultural, pluri-generic eclecticism; culture is all that is the case. Writers are no longer experimental explorers, cultural movers and shakers, formers of values; they are sub-atomic particles & individualized celebrities. The periodical, like the book, has been enveloped in the new age of communications conglomerates. It is not about the shaping of the "critical attitude" or the "saving remnant"; it is another signifying commodity, competing in the marketplace. If the story of the magazines of Modernism is one of an enterprise in moving from an era of fin de siecle cultural ephemerality to a kind of permanence, the postmodern process is the reverse: the ephemeralisation, randomization and commodification of "culture" and "art" is the impermanent triumph of the postmodern condition. For an account of the history of literary magazines and journals go to:http://malcolmbradbury.com/criticism_little_magazines.html
An academic or scholarly journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research. Content typically takes the form of articles presenting original research,review articles, and book reviews. The term academic journal applies to scholarly publications in all fields; this article discusses the aspects common to all academic field journals. Scientific journals and journals of the quantitative social sciences vary in form and function from journals of the humanities and qualitative social sciences; their specific aspects are separately discussed. For more on this type of journal go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_journal
The following journals do not focus exclusively on English literature and are placed, therefore, in the category of comparative literature and theory. They include journals like: Eighteenth-Century Fiction, Exemplaria, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, MFS, Modernism/Modernity, New Literary History, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, PMLA, Renaissance Quarterly, Representations and Speculum. I have placed these in a separate category along with scholarly journals since they tend to be more specialist and, in many ways, more academic than literary. They do not really come under the umbrella of journalism, as discussed above in Parts 1 and 2.
Before Anthony Lewis(1927-2013) began covering the Supreme Court for The New York Times in 1955, there were, of course, journalists who reported on legal decisions. But Lewis, who attended Harvard Law School as a journalism fellow in 1956, and went on to teach both there and at the Columbia Journalism School, created something different: a new approach to legal journalism. He combined sophisticated legal analysis with an unparalleled ability to write in plain, lucid English, translating the Court’s decisions, explaining their implications, and assessing their significance for a broad readership. For more on this commentary on Lewis' work and life go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/may/09/anthony-lewis-1927-2013/
Some readers of what I like to call my online journalism, may prefer to see much of my writing as simply 'creative nonfiction.' This kind of writing is also known as literary or narrative nonfiction. It is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction can be contrasted with other nonfiction, such as technical writing or journalism, both of which are also rooted in accurate fact. As a genre, creative nonfiction is still relatively young, and is only beginning to be scrutinized with the same critical analysis given to fiction and poetry.
For a text to be considered creative nonfiction, it must be factually accurate, and written with attention to literary style and technique. “Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction.” Forms within this genre include biography, food writing, literary journalism, memoirs, personal essays, travel writing, and other hybridized essays. Critic Chris Anderson claims that the genre can be understood best by splitting it into two subcategories—the personal essay and the journalistic essay—but the genre is currently defined by its lack of established conventions. According to Vivian Gornick, "A memoir is a tale taken from life—that is, from actual, not imagined, occurrences—related by a first-person narrator who is undeniably the writer. Beyond these bare requirements it has the same responsibility as the novel or the short story: to shape a piece of experience so that it moves from a tale of private interest to one with meaning for the disinterested reader.”
Literary critic Barbara Lounsberry — in her book The Art of Fact — suggests four constitutive characteristics of this genre. The first characteristic is: “documentable subject matter chosen from the real world as opposed to ‘invented’ from the writer’s mind.” By this, she means that the topics and events discussed in the text verifiably exist in the natural world. The second characteristic is: “exhaustive research,” which she claims allows writers “novel perspectives on their subjects” and “also permits them to establish the credibility of their narratives through verifiable references in their texts.” The third characteristic that Lounsberry claims is crucial in defining the genre is: “the scene”. She stresses the importance of describing and revivifying the context of events in contrast to the typical journalistic style of objective reportage. The fourth and final feature she suggests is: “fine writing: a literary prose style”. “Verifiable subject matter and exhaustive research guarantee the nonfiction side of literary nonfiction; the narrative form and structure disclose the writer’s artistry; and finally, its polished language reveals that the goal all along has been literature.”
Creative nonfiction may be structured like traditional fiction narratives, as is true of Fenton Johnson's story of love and loss, Geography of the Heart, and Virginia Holman's Rescuing Patty Hearst. When book-length works of creative nonfiction follow a story-like arc, they are sometimes called narrative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction often escapes traditional boundaries of narrative altogether, as happens in the bittersweet banter of Natalia Ginzburg's essay, "He and I", in John McPhee's hypnotic tour of Atlantic City, In Search of Marvin Gardens, and in Ander Monson's playful, experimental essays in Neck-Deep and Other Predicaments. Creative nonfiction writers have embraced new ways of forming their texts—including online technologies—because the genre lends itself to grand experimentation. Dozens of new journals have sprung up—both in print and online—that feature creative nonfiction prominently in their offerings. For more go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_nonfiction
A zine is an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine. It is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier. A popular definition includes that circulation must be 1,000 or less, although in practice the significant majority are produced in editions of less than 100, and profit is not the primary intent of publication. For more on this popular form of communication and journalism go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zine
LITERATURE AND JOURNALISM
Many writers have been caught on the cusp of Literature and journalism, or what you might call literary reportage. The English-language, the mainstream western intellectual, tradition holds that selling readers fiction dressed up as fact is always wrong---not the way to go for a writer. But the old Central European tradition, where our contemporaries have and have had many predecessors, assumes that what readers want is entertainment and enchantment as much as information. To play around with the reality in order to convey more vividly ‘what it was like to be there’ was just fine for readers in Prague or Vienna.
All journalists are sometimes tempted to embroider, to hype the significant details a little, to sharpen up the quotes by dropping the boring bits. Ethical frontiers in journalism, in journalistic-literature are ill-lit and murky. There is no doubt that writing for publications and readers who have no way to check what they are told, overstep these frontiers in the sense of selling faction & bias as fact. Self-censorship and passionate engagement are both tricky zones to negotiate. I do not believe that there is such a thing as impartial journalism. I do not believe either in formal objectivity. A journalist cannot be an indifferent witness; bias is built into the very clay of man. A writer worth his salt should have the capacity for empathy and as much understanding and knowledge as he or she can muster on life's path. So-called objective journalism is impossible, especially in complex conflict situations. Attempts at objectivity in such situations lead to disinformation. For an examination of this problem in the life and writing of one man you might like to read Ryszard Kapuściński: A Life by Artur Domosławski. If you have little time, you may prefer a review of this same book at: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n15/neal-ascherson/how-it-felt-to-be-there
THE RISE OF MODERN JOURNALISM
In the 1920s, just as Baha'i administration was taking its initial form in several countries of the world under the direction and guidance of Shoghi Effendi and, just as modern journalism was also taking form, writer Walter Lippmann(1889-1974) and American philosopher John Dewey(1859-1952) debated over the role of journalism in a democracy. The average person today has not even heard of these two men and they know little to nothing of their debate. But the issues they discussed are still with us. The differing philosophies of Lippman and Dewey still characterize a debate about the role of journalism in society and the nation-state. For the most part, though, my online journalism is not concerned with the political issues that concerned either Lippmann or Dewey. What I write is not concerned with the actions and policies of political elites. I mention both these men since the approaches to journalism of each of these men are involved in my approach, my way of going about my online journalism.
Lippmann understood that journalism's role, back in those entre deux guerres years, was to act as a mediator or translator between the public and policy making elites. The journalist became, for Lippmann, the middleman. When elites spoke, journalists listened and recorded the information, distilled it, and passed it on to the public for their consumption. Lippmann's reasoning behind this was that the public was not in a position to deconstruct the growing and complex flurry of information present in modern society. An intermediary was needed to filter news for the masses. Lippman put it this way: "The public is not smart enough to understand complicated, political issues." Furthermore, he continued, the public was too consumed with their daily lives to care about complex public policy except in some fleeting sense while they ate their dinner or before they went out to the movies. Therefore the public needed someone to interpret the decisions or concerns of the political elite to make the information plain and simple.
Lippmann believed that the public would affect the decision-making of the elite with their vote. In the meantime, the elite (i.e. politicians, policy makers, bureaucrats, scientists, etc.) would keep the business of power running. In Lippman's world, the journalist's role was to inform the public of what the elites were doing. Their role was also to act as a watchdog over the elites since the public had the final say with their votes. Effectively that kept the public at the bottom of the power chain, catching the flow of information that was handed down from experts/elites.
Lippmann's elitism had then, as it has now, consequences that he came to deplore. An apostle of historicism and scientism, Lippmann did not merely hold that democratic government was a problematic exercise, but regarded all political communities, of whatever stripe, as needing guidance from a transcendent partisanship for accurate information and dispassionate judgment. In "Liberty and the News" (1919) and "Public Opinion" (1921) Lippmann expressed the hope that liberty could be redefined to take account of the complex scientific and historical perspectives in which liberty was imbedded. He also hoped that public opinion could be managed by a system of intelligence in and out of government. Thus the liberty of the journalist was to be dedicated to gathering verifiable facts; commentators like himself would place the news in the broader perspective.
Lippmann deplored the influence of powerful newspaper publishers and preferred the judgments of the "patient and fearless men of science." While my online publishing will never make me a powerful newspaper publisher, nor would I want to be, I like the image of myself as a "patient and fearless man of science." I have much to learn, though, about both patience and being fearless. Still, like Lippmann, this image of the journalist is one worth working toward in my online journalism.
Lippmann did not merely denigrate the opinion of the majority but also of those who had influence or power as well. In a democratic-republican form of government, the representatives are chosen by the people and share with them adherence to the fundamental principles and political institutions of the polity. Lippmann's quarrel was with those very principles and institutions, for they are the product of the pre-scientific and pre-historical viewpoint. They were also the product of what for him was a groundless natural rights political philosophy. The sheer proliferation of the objects, diversions, and possibilities for life in modern society has made modern society, as Lippmann pointed out after WW1 in his book The Phantom Public, “not visible to anybody, nor intelligible continuously & as a whole.”(1) Abundance has in some ways both blunted and accentuated the meaning of experience and the pleasure to be found in abundance itself. Society, the world, has become one great brontosaurissmus, some voracious shark, that people who are not used to the sea are trying to dissect & understand. There are elements within this whole that are shocking and unprecedented; often these elements are profoundly disturbing and the effects, like those of the shark, are often paralysing and prostrating. Of course, there is much that is pleasurable: not all is shark-like.(1) Gerald Early, “Partisanship, Race, and the Public Intellectual,” AmeriQuests, Vol.3, No.2, 2006.
It is in some of these general views of Lippmann's that my writing, my online journalism, comes in. I write in the context of that "sheer proliferation of the objects, diversions and possibilities for life in modern soceity." My aim is to make society more intelligible, and to help the individual dissect and understand the great brontosaurissmus that is the vast global commentariat. It is an aim I only partly achieve, and it is an aim in which I am joined by literally 1000s of other online journalists, to say nothing of the professional journalists of the print and electronic media. This will keep me fully occupied, along with my other literary roles, in these years of my retirement as I now go through my 70s, 80s and 90s, if I last that long. Those roles, and others, kept me fully occupied in my half century as a student and teacher: 1949 to 1999.
Dewey, on the other hand, believed the public was not only capable of understanding the issues created or responded to by the elite, it was in the public forum that decisions should be made after discussion and debate. When issues were thoroughly vetted, then the best ideas would bubble to the surface. Dewey believed journalists should do more than simply pass on information. He believed they should weigh the consequences of the policies being enacted. Over time, his idea has been implemented in various degrees, and is more commonly known as "community journalism".
This concept of community journalism is at the centre of new developments in journalism. In this new paradigm, journalists are able to engage citizens and the experts/elites in the proposition and generation of content. It's important to note that while there is an assumption of equality, Dewey still celebrates expertise. Dewey believes the shared knowledge of many is far superior to a single individual's knowledge. Experts and scholars are welcome in Dewey's framework, but there is not the hierarchical structure present in Lippman's understanding of journalism and society. According to Dewey, conversation, debate, and dialogue lie at the heart of a democracy.
While Lippman's journalistic philosophy might be more acceptable to government leaders, Dewey's approach is a better description of how many journalists see their role in society, and, in turn, how much of society expects journalists to function. Americans, for example, may criticize some of the excesses committed by journalists, but they tend to expect journalists to serve as watchdogs on government, businesses and actors, enabling people to make informed decisions on the issues of the time.
ONLINE JOURNALISM AND BLOGS
Nimmo and Combs assert that political pundits constitute a Fifth Estate. Media researcher Stephen D. Cooper argues that bloggers are the Fifth Estate. William Dutton has argued that the Fifth Estate is not simply the blogging community, nor an extension of the media, but 'networked individuals' enabled by the Internet in ways that can hold the other estates accountable. Making reference to the medieval concept of "three estates of the realm" (Clergy, Nobility and Commons), and to a more recently developed model of "four estates", which encompasses the media, Nayef Al-Rodhan introduces the weblogs (blogs) as a "fifth estate of the realm". Blogs have a potential, and a real influence on contemporary policymaking, especially in the context of elections, reporting from conflict zones, and raising dissent over corporate or congressional policies. Based on these observations, Al-Rodhan suggests moving beyond traditional thinking that limits the “estates of the realm” to governmental action and proposes a broader perspective in which civilians or anyone with access to a computer and the Internet can contribute to the global political change and security.
Of all the blogs on the Internet, continues Al-Rodhan, only a few have a real power to influence the policy-making process, specifically political and current affairs blogs with large and involved audiences. These blogs can help organize the public to take a stance on an issue, be used in political campaigns, help cultivate grassroots movements, & assist in fundraising. Furthermore, blogs have several unique features that give them potential influence in policymaking: a lack of editorial supervision, low barriers to entry, difficulty for governments to censor or control content, and the ease of responding to events in real time. Blogs can affect policy-making by providing insider information, facilitating communication between experts, promoting grassroots efforts, discrediting political figures, and setting policy agendas.
Blogs as "the fifth estate" are also influencing global security. They can contribute to terrorist plots by facilitating cross-border communication and by connecting people whose ideas are outside of the mainstream. they can do this by propagating hateful or violent messages, or by encouraging organized crime. Advocates for social justice, like the Codepink movement, argue that this is an unfair characterisation, since the Executive Branch of government, at least in the USA, wages actually-existing war at a significant human and material cost routinely without being criticized. For a good overview of the federal government of the USA go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_government_of_the_United_States#Cabinet. For more on Codepink go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_Pink Despite evidence of multiple war fronts appearing to support this claim in the early 21st century, Al-Rodhan concludes, governments must increase surveillance of blogs and develop legal, administrative, and technological tools to dissuade bloggers from posting potentially harmful information, such as calls to incite terrorism. On a more positive note, blogs also have the potential to prevent governments from adopting hasty and misjudged decisions. I encourage readers to do some Googling on the complex topic of national governments: the executive branch in the USA, cabinet government in, say, Canada, the UK and Australia, their powers & responsibilities, the systems of checks and balances.
Readers might wish to flesh out some of the concerns voiced by some thinkers and writers, critics & analysts in relation to the powers of the executive in both the presidential system and the parliamentary system of govenrment. Such readers are directed to several recent books: (1) Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse, about Vietnam; (2) Dirty Wars, and a film, by Jeremy Scahill, about Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia; (3) The Deaths of Others, by John Tirman, covering Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan; The Untold History of the U.S. by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, and a 10-part Showtime documentary, discussing U.S. policy from World War II to the present; & (4) Drone Warfare by Medea Benjamin; (5) Flyboys, by James Bradley, also offers invaluable information on U.S. aerial mass murder of civilians in World War II, and (6) The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings on U.S. Executive massacres of civilians in Korea. Such books and film docos have been supplemented by numerous reports from such organizations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. For a context for all of the above go to: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35432.htm
New communication technology, including accessible online publishing software and evolving mobile device technology, means that citizens like myself have the potential, at least on some occasions, to observe and report more immediately than traditional media outlets do. Given that there is a virtually infinite number of topics to report on, and given the limitations of my time and circumstances, I can and do report on relatively little. The print & electronic media take care of this reporting 24/7. My role is not to report the news. As an online journalist I have slowly articulated my role since the late 1990s when I first had my own website in 1997, and when I began to retire by degrees from all paid FT, PT, and casual-work. By 2006, the only volunteer work I did, work for which I was not paid, was for a range of online organizations which readers can find in the outline of my professional life at LinkedIn.
I used to send items of news and articles to newspapers and magazines; I did this for forty years(1965-2005) before I was able to work-out how the internet could provide me with access to a wide readership. The kinds of articles I once sent to magazines and newspapers, radio and television stations, journals and an assortment of print publications, I now send to any one or more of dozens of websites. Swarms of amateur online journalists like myself are putting this new technology, this world-wide-web, to use on what you might call, might refer to as, open publishing sites, weblogs and blogs, internet locations with a wide variety of names. This adds a massive grassroots dimension to the media landscape. Bloggers, and other amateur journalists are often scooping mainstream news outlets as well as pointing out errors in mainstream articles, while people who’ve been made subjects of news articles are now responding online, posting supplementary information to provide context and counterpoints. Increasingly, the public is turning to online sources for news, reflecting a growing trust in alternative media. Of course, this subject is a very complex one with an immense range of permutations and combinations of both writers and readers.
I now read virtually everything online. Of course, this medium is not for everyone. Hard copy newspapers and magazines, journals and books are still the preferred medium for millions. We all have to work out our MO, to borrow a term from the who-dun-its. While some traditional news outlets are reacting with fear and uncertainty, many are adopting open publishing features with their own online versions. The Guardian, The Washington Post, and literally hundreds of newspapers and journals, magazines and specialist publications, as well as many other mainstream media outlets are now online. I often send items to these online newspapers and publications. Again, given my other activities and interests; given the fact that I can only devote 6 to 8 hours a day to my roles as: writer and author, poet and publisher, reader and researcher, editor and scholar, online blogger and journalist, I prioritize and choose activities each day that give me pleasure in writing, or meet my literary needs as they have evolved up to that day: today. I don't work for any newspaper, magazine or journal. I am an independent writer and scholar. I decide what and when, where and why, how and if, I want to write.
Long gone are my days where duty drove me on: to pay the bills, to carry out the several responsibilities of whatever job I had, to visit people I did not want to visit, to go to meetings I did not want to go to, to write stuff and read stuff I did not want to read. All of my life in those years when duty called did not involve things I did not want to do. Much of my life, before I took an early retirement at the age of 55 in 1999, was filled with pleasure and the doing of things I enjoyed. A great deal of my reading and study was chosen because of my interest in the contents.
I am fully retired now from FT, PT and most volunteer work, and have been for the last 8 years. I began to receive an old-age pension at the age of 65 in 2009. I utilize my leisure in the classical Greek tradition, updated to a 21st century perspective. For a re-reading of Sebastian de Grazia’s Of Time, Work, and Leisure (1964), which is an extended analysis of Aristotle’s conception of leisure, and which lies at the core of de Grazia’s argument, go to the following link. To understand fully de Grazia’s appeal to the Aristotelian conception of leisure, it is necessary to explore that conception itself. Although the Aristotelian conception of leisure, and de Grazia’s study of it, are generally taken-to-be within the common heritage of the leisure studies field, prevailing interpretations of both are unsatisfactory, at least from my point of view. These interpretations all omit significant aspects of both the Aristotelian tradition, & of its concept of leisure. Anyway, without worrying about these fine, these nuanced, details, I see my use of time within the framework of this Greek tradition which is discussed in fine detail and delightfully at: http://findpdf.net/reader/Leisure-and-Civility-Reflections-on-a-Greek-Ideal-University-of-Iowa.html
“A man of leisure, according to Plato and Aristotle, was a man who believed that cultivating the mind, so important for the state, was the finest, the brightest, the most important, of all of a man's activities. It was the single activity in which a human being was revealed as related to the gods. In the exercise of this activity he celebrated the gods.” This ideal rose in the 5th century B.C. from the intensity of the Greeks’ sense of belonging to their communities, from the moral and political obligations owed to these communities. It is this ideal of leisure, which combines reflection and action with deeply rooted attachment to one’s community, which I see as the ideal at the basis of my journalistic cyberpsace life-narrative. The community I have been associated with for more than 60 years, the international Baha'i community, is the main community I serve and work within now in the evening of my life, as I head through my 70s from 2014 to 2024, and my 80s, the years after 2024, if I last that long.
What I write, as a member of this community, has no special authority, indeed, it has no authority at all. My words are simply my own reflections; they are the expression of what you might call individual initiative; they are the result of more than seven decades of living and working, being an active part of many Baha'i communities, reading and studying, writing and editing as far back as the 1950s. Of course, most of my writing is not part of the Baha'i community in any formal sense. I am a Baha'i who writes, not a Baha'i writer; I am a poet who poetizes, not a Baha'i poet. This distinction, although in some ways a finely worded nuance, is also a distinction of more than a little importance. For more on the Baha'i Faith and the arts go to:http://faithandthearts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Bahai-Paper.pdf
The word, the concept, 'community' here is not to be confused by modern readers with contemporary society or the state which was de Grazia’s main focus. The exploration of this view of community leads him, and us if we are not careful, to largely pessimistic conclusions about the quality of contemporary leisure, and hence the society in which it occurs. Readers need to continue with that same link I mentioned above if they want to further explore some of my own thoughts on the nature of community, leisure and my own writing. The basic sense of democracy as a form of governance rests on its etymology as rule by the entire people rather than, as Shapiro puts it, by any "aristocrat, monarch, philosopher, bureaucrat, expert, or religious leader."(Ian Shapiro, Democratic Justice, New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1999) Beyond that, actual definitions of democracy come in all shapes and sizes. For more on this complex topic go to: http://www.uiowa.edu/~c030142/DefinitionsOfDemocracy.html
"Many hard-copy communication mediums, while continuing their former selves, their former formats, so to speak, have added online versions and blogs to their former channels of communication. These newspapers and journals, inter alia, now engage in more tactics and devices to get readers than I could possibly summarize here. If I did try to summarize all their methods I would give readers here much more information than they need. The BBC’s website posts reader’s photos, and other sites solicit and use reader-contributed content. Mainstream news outlets are increasingly scanning blogs and other online sources for leads on news items. Some print-media are now hiring journalists from the blogging ranks. Journalists are blogging live from courtrooms, from Baghdad, and elsewhere, allowing them to post frequent updates in near real-time.
I'm getting my slice of the action, much more than I ever got in those 40 years that I referred to above, and when I was at the beck-and-call of the media outlets to which I sent my literary & news pieces. My role of online journalist is not one I take on to a great extent. I am much more involved with other forms of writing than online-journo-work. Indeed, as I go through my 70s, from 23/7/'14 to 23/7/'24, I can see my role of online journalist as being a minimal one. In the last years(70 to 80) of my late adulthood(60 to 80), & old age(80+), if I live that long, I have many other online literary and writing preferences. The online journo world is also one that is now full of writers and authors, journalists and broadcasters, columnists and commentators, contributors and correspondents, media and newspaper people, pencil pushers and publicists, reporters and magazine, radio and television, commentators. I only play into, participate, in that world when something of interest catches my attention and fancy. I am not a big name; indeed, I am not even a little name in these ranks of the online journalist. I am one of the millions now of 'the many are called.'
As the public turns toward participatory forms of online journalism, and as mainstream news outlets adopt more of those interactive features in their online formats & versions, the media environment is shifting, sometimes slowly & sometimes quickly, incrementally, sensibly & insensibly, away from the broadcast model where the few communicate to the many, toward a more inclusive model in which publics and audiences also have voices. The result, of course, is an immense print and image-glut, vast complexity, fractured audiences and reader bases. I am but one voice, one literary voice, in this now noisey and burgeoning media world. Still, for millions, the evening news with one person telling millions about "the day's events" continues its petty, and not-so-petty pace from day to day.
MORE ON MY BLOGGING
The word 'blog' is such an unattractive word, along with its unlovely sister, blogroll, but perhaps appropriate enough for the secretions that make their way onto many websites like mine. Blogs range from the quirky & literate to the downright loopy. Why are so many religious fundamentalists, food enthusiasts, sports gurus and gardening officianados into blogging. It's because they can get a big audience for their literary efforts. Perhaps the blog offers a kind of virtual pulpit for creationists and other types of religious eejit, a pulpit where crackpot ideas are more often affirmed than challenged. As a ‘blogger' I wish that the name for writing one’s thoughts down in the form of an electronic essay, available for the public to read on demand, had been better chosen.
The French do it more elegantly, or they are trying to: the boys on the burning deck of the Académie Française want the French to call blogs ‘jouebs’ whilst their French-Canadian camarades prefer ‘blogue.’ The Canadian option is suave, the French is naughty and intellectual; it sounds as though it was invented by the shade of Roland Barthes, fascinated in the afterlife by le plaisir de la toile, the pleasure of the net–‘joueb’ being short for ‘un journal web.’ At least with ‘joueb’ there are playful connotations due to the French word 'jouer' rather than scatalogical ones. Many readers here will have no idea what the reference to Roland Barthes(1915-1980) involves. Barthes is a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician; you can go to this link, FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes
‘Joueb’ is a word I’m tempted to adopt here not least because it chimes with the serious play I wanted to be in evidence on this website of mine, play in the sense used by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga(1872-1945) one of the founders of modern cultural history. When I began, I did not imagine that my website would be the kind of place for such an immensely wide-range of subjects and topics, disciplines and fields of knowledge. I must say, though, that I'm generally pleased with what has become, for me at least, a more formal version of a writer’s notebook. This website has become, by sensible and insensible degrees over nearly 18 years, a place for my formal and informal, for my carefully crafted & thought-out as well as for my improvised observations. It is a place for my ‘working without really doing it,’ as the poet Elizabeth Bishop once described letter-writing; or, for the bonsai or capsule essay. I wanted it to be the sort of place where William Hazlitt, Samuel Johnson and the other eighteenth-&-nineteenth-century essayists might want to kick their shoes off and sit down, alongside– in conversation and play with–other modern idlers, punks & thinking wastrels. You can have a chinwag with Samuel Taylor Coleridge; John Keats can play with various musos like Nick Cave. Well, it's not exactly like that, but I aim to catch just some of this flavour.
The reality of writing here is always tempered by that toile of readers, and the ways in which you suspect you are being read. WordPress provide the blogger with stats, raw data, which give an insight into possible clusters of interest: the fans of Clive James might stumble onto this site because of my frequent references to dear old Clive. College kids might like what I've written about F Scott Fitzgerald, and stop by to read my comments on any one of dozens of writers and authors, poets and social commentators. Nick Cave fans, Leonard Cohen fans drop in for some duende. But most readers are text-tourists, looking for something else.
Search terms and keyword research is the practice used by search engine optimization professionals to find and research actual search terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search. Search engine optimization professionals research keywords in order to achieve better rankings in search engines. This somewhat complex process informs me that what many people who come to my website are looking for is often information about some particular topic or subject to see what my take on that subject is, was, or might be. Given the fact that I now post at over 8000 different websites concenred with just about any imaginable topic, and the fact that there are many millions of my words spread across the vast landscape of the world-wide-web, I get a very mixed bag of people who hit on me for all sorts of stuff. Occasionally, I now get searches directed at 'Pioneering Over Five Epochs' itself, which is flattering, but generally, most people arrive here in some kind of hurry; they are often possibly, indeed quite probably, bewildered; but they are always wanting an answer to a question, some words about something of interest to them; the reasons are legion. I thank Nicola Deane for much of the above which I have lightly edited. You can go to her blog to see what I have stolen or plaigiarized: http://nicholadeane.wordpress.com/tag/fscott-fitzgerald/
A blog, for those who don’t know, is a journal or log, a set of posts, that appears on a website. It is written on-line, read on-line, and updated on-line, that is, in cyberspace. It’s there for anyone with an Internet connection to see, who wants to see and who knows the blog is there. In many cases, although not all, others can comment on these blogs. The entries, or posts, are organized in reverse chronological order, like a pile of unread mail, with the newest posts on top and the older stuff on the bottom. Sometimes the order is the other way around. Some blogs resemble on-line magazines, complete with graphics, sidebars, and captioned photos. Others just have the name of the blog at the top and the dated entries under it. You can find blogs by doing a regular Google search for the blog name, if you know it, or by doing a Google Blog search using keywords. Those who want to read my blogs can google, that is, search, using the words: Ron Price's Blogs. I've had blogs for about a decade now and, as I see it, they are all in embryo. I have made a start but have not, as yet, developed any of them to the extent they could be, if I had (i) the interest, (ii) the money, and (iii) the technical skills.
The word “blog” is a portmanteau term for Web log or Weblog. In 1997 Jorn Barger, the keeper of Robot Wisdom, a website full of writings about James Joyce, artificial intelligence, and Judaism-and-racism coined the word “Weblog.” In 1999 Peter Merholz, the author of a Weblog called Peterme, split it in two like this—”We blog”—creating a word that could serve as either noun or verb. “Blog” was born. 1997 was the first year of my own website, and in 1999 I retired from FT work, the world of being jobbed. I had been jobbing as far back as the 1950s while a student in primary school who wanted more money to buy more stuff than my parents could afford to give me. In the years 1997 to the first years of this 3rd millennium, I exchanged jobbing for blogging among other forms of writing. Blogs were just waiting for me when I pulled the plug from paid employment, endless meetings, and what seemed like endless talking and listening in school and out in the community.
The World Wide Web (WWW) has become one of the fastest growing electronic information sources. Meanwhile new facilities for producing web pages such as Blogs have considerably increased the rate. This is because Blogs have simple content management tools enabling non-experts to build easily updatable web diaries or online journals. In May 2007 blog search engine Technorati tracked more than 70 million blogs. Everyday more than 120,000 new blogs are created and 1.5 million posts are made, Technorati found during its quarterly survey. Blog became a popular media for publishing information on the internet and has come into the spotlight in the World Wide Web. A vast number of the small contents and citations among Blog communities are increasing day by day. Some efforts such as topic discovery, trend analysis & content ranking are applied to these large amounts of information. If you go to this link you will be able to read an excellent overview of Blogs: http://www.enggjournals.com/ijcse/doc/IJCSE11-03-01-116.pdf If you go to this link you will find some of my online blogs: http://www.google.com.au=15=Ron+Price+blogs source=Ron+Price+blogs
My blogs, as I say above, are all in their early stage. In the last decade, as I have opened many a blog in cyberspace, I have taken what you might call a "wait and see" approach. I have set up many blogs on the world-wide-web at sites where I had registered. But I have written very little at these blogs in the first decade of their existence---at least in most cases. In many cases, at many blogs, I have written the same opening notes, opening posts. Blogging has really begun for the world, for people who use the internet, just the other day, as I say above just in the last decade or so. Today there are, by one count, more than 100 million blogs in the world, with about 15 million of them active. If I bothered to troll about among the more than 8000 internet sites at which I am registered, I might locate about 3 dozen of my blogs; that is a guesstimation. However many blogs I have, they are but a needle in the blog-haystack.
In Japan neglected or abandoned blogs are called ishikoro, in English, pebbles. On the world-wide-web there are now blogs on just about any subject you might think has some importance at: the local, regional, state, national or international level. There are political blogs, confessional blogs, gossip blogs, sex blogs, mommy blogs, science blogs, soldier blogs, gadget blogs, fiction blogs, video blogs, photo blogs, and cartoon blogs, to name just a few. Some people blog alone and some in groups. Every self-respecting newspaper and magazine has some reporters and critics blogging. Some famous print media blogs are found at: The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.
The blog is arguably the first successful web-native electronic publishing platform, one with a number of structural elements that is difficult, or simply not desireable, to be replicated in print. It is a place in cyberspace that delivers, encodes, provides readers with different content than do print texts. Blogging developed quickly from a mildly peculiar and somewhat self-regarding web-publishing practice limited to a small sector of the techno-elite in, say, 2000, into a surprisingly widespread phenomenon, thanks in part to a number of free software packages and services that made blogging no more difficult than writing itself. Blogger, the first of those tools, one of the first packages, was released in October 2000 just after I retired from FT employment, and just before I also retired from PT employment.
I'd like to think that readers who come to my many internet blogs will find a sanity, a wonderfully unencumbered style, alive with the rhythms of the wild and wonderful, and the not-so-wild and not-so-wonderful conversation I am having with myself. So relaxed a precision, at least as one of the many ways I now see my writing, developed over decades. It did not come along easily into my life, this literary skill and interest. Of course, not all my readers will find my writing unencumbered and possessing a relaxed precision. I'd also like to think that, as that erudite Australian, Clive James, calls the writing and the British columnist Zoe Williams, I and my writing are also "equipped with an uncanny ability to reach out-of the page, and flick food crumbs off the lapels of my readers." But, alas and alack, I don't think I get anywhere near the lapels of my readers. After more than 60 years of writing and receiving criticism of my writing, I do not bring to the process some over-the-top impression of my talents.
Neither do I write pieces that readers can not ignore. Readers can ignore all my writing in this world of 400 million sites, 3 billion online readers, and enough stuff to fill the heads of readers to overflowing a 1000 times a 1000. As with any writer who would like to be in the must-read category in cyberspace or any other space, I only produce certain pieces that are catchier than the rest. This is because some of my pieces are written, not just in reaction to the passing day, but because they draw on one or more of my long-cherished subjects. I have readers who love what I write, readers who have a strong distaste for what and how I write----and I write in a world where most of the 7.4 billion people have neither heard of me nor will ever read what I write. But that is true of virtually everyone who writes. Each writer gets his or her own small slice or an immense pie.
By July 2008 after I had taken a sea-change for nearly a decade, Technorati.com was tracking the activity on 112.8 million blogs. Among those blogs, the type and level of discourse varied greatly: some blogs were exclusively personal journals, while others were focused on politics or other aspects of the public sphere, and many were in fact a blend of the two; some blogs were single-authored while others were the works of groups; some blogs exclusively published text while many others included other forms of media. And, of course, some blogs are ‘good,’ while others aren’t, no matter who does the evaluating. None of this variation should distract us from the key point: the rapid spread of blogs and the relative robustness of their platforms should suggest that their tools might be useful to a range of potential, specialized digital publishing modes.
Among these tools, that most commonly associated with blogs is the ability of readers to comment on entries, creating multi-vocal and wide-ranging conversations; another such tool is the link, whether standard HTML links created within blog entries in order to comment on other web-based texts or the links automatically generated and transmitted by blogging engines in order to leave an indication on a linked-to text that it has been commented upon elsewhere (known as ‘trackbacks’ or ‘pingbacks’). There’s an often-unremarked third feature provided by some blog engines, as well as by other web publishing platforms such as wikis, which might even more powerfully affect our thinking about the life of scholarly writing online: versioning. For more on this subject which has a degree of complexity which should not concern readers---go to: http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/433/466 For an excellent critique of and comment on the world of blogs and its processes go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/feb/14/blogs/
What made blogs so immediately popular, both with readers and with writers, was the very fact that they changed and developed over time, existing not as a static, complete text but rather as an ongoing series of updates, additions, and revisions. This is of course to be expected of a journal-like format. Blogs might easily be compared to any form of periodical or serial publication; the blog as a whole remains relatively constant, even as new ‘issues’ or posts are added to it. But the fact that a blog’s readers return again and again in order to find those new posts might encourage us to ask whether there is something in the structure of digital authorship that privileges and encourages development and change, even beyond the obviously diachronic aspect of the blog’s structure. When web pages are not regularly updated and attended to, after all, they’re subject to rapid degeneration: aging styles, outdated standards, and worst, perhaps, ‘link rot.’ Given the fact that my literary life has many facets that do not include blogging; given the fact that my health and personal circumstances only give me some 40 to 50 hours a week on the internet, of which perhaps 5 hours are devoted to blogging across a wide landscape of blogs, I am not a big player in the blog game. I am neither famous nor rich, nor will I ever be. I have nothing against either fame or wealth. As a writer I like to have readers and the more the better, but I'm not waiting in the wings for fame and wealth to arrive as I head through my 70s from 23/7/'14 to 23/7/'24, or my 80s in 2024 and after, if I last that long.
Such ephemerality makes it arguable that the unspoken contract between the author and the reader of a piece of digital text is radically different from that between the author of a book and its reader; rather than assuming that the text is fixed, complete, and stable, the reader of a digital text may well assume otherwise. Of course, this is not always the case. The executive director of The Coalition for Networked Information, an organization whose mission is to promote networked information technology as a way to further the advancement of intellectual collaboration and productivity, Clifford Lynth, suggests, we do not yet fully understand what ‘reader expectations about updating published work’ will be (Lynch, 2001). Will the assumption come to be, he says, that a text must be up-to-date, with all known errors corrected, reflecting new information as it comes to light, in order to maintain the ‘authority’ that print has held? Sites such as Wikipedia seem to indicate a growing assumption that digitally published texts not only will, but should, change over time. In my case, I have only begun my life with blogs in the last decade. What I write here is my window into this world or, at least, how I see and experience this world at the beginning of my second decade of blogging experience.
There are now 100s, if not 1000s, of media scholars. I will mention one here and leave it to readers with the interest to access this now fertile field. Henry Jenkins III(1958- ) is an American media scholar and currently a Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, a joint professorship at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Previously, he was the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities and Co-Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program with William Uricchio. He is also author of several books, including Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Cultureand What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic.
Wikipedia contains subcategories and articles relating to individual researchers, scholars, or academics whose works have made notable contributions towards one or more fields of media scholarship: criticism, history, theory, inter alia, in media studies. For these lists and articles go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Media_scholars For more on Jenkins go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Jenkins
The first personal ad to appear in The New York Review of Books(NYRB) was published in the magazine’s July 11, 1968 issue. “WIFE WANTED,” it read. “Intelligent, beautiful, 18 to 25, broad-minded, sensitive, affectionate. For accomplished artist and exciting life. NYRB box 1432.” Ever since then, the Review’s personals have been a widely-followed, and much-parodied, part of the magazine. Associate Publisher of NYRB, Catherine Tice, defined a personal, or personal ad, as an item or notice traditionally in the newspaper, similar to a classified advertisement but personal in nature.
In British English such an ad or notice is commonly known as 'an advert in a lonely-hearts column'. With its rise in popularity, the World Wide Web has also become a common medium for personals, commonly referred to as online dating. You can Google: Top 10 Adult Dating Sites. Here is a list of online dating sites that have contacted me: Australian Sex Forum, -Just Hookup.com, xPress.com, Speed Dating, Meet Jewish Singles, Cougars Seeking Toy Boys, Internet Corkboard, Casual Dates: online dating, Fuck.com, Bang In Your City(Find a Local F. Buddy) -City Sex.com; Social.Sex.Biz; SexForums.com; xxx Black Book(Hook-up); Fuck Book(Meet singles online); XMeetiny.com; Speed-Date; xPersonals.com; Adult Friend Finder; Sexual Forums.com; Dating Love and Sex Answers; Hook-up Junction, Erotic Ads, Millionaire Data.com, Jewish singles, Arab singles, Christian singles, Baha’i singles, Hookup Junction, Erotica Ads, slutroulette.com, datingezbabes.com
People send me photos of themselves online, as I mentioned above, after seeing my photo at one of a multitude of the 8000+ sites at which I post my writing. They live in the hope that we might have a date or a dalliance, a sexual relationship or just a discrete friendship. They say things like: "no questions asked" or "I saw your photo and your profile at..." I get invitations to join menage a trois and group sex, as well as from individuals at online sex and dating-sites, same-sex sites and even the occasional nudist colony. They say things like: "you might like to try this", or "if you are free and easy..."; "I'm back from Bali", or "I just broke-up from my boyfriend"; "I'm in town and I thought we..."....inter alia.
I try to respond to as few of these requests as possible. When I do respond to some incoming email expressing some high degree of anxiety or special pleading, I reply with honesty and courtesy, tact and kindness. Honesty and courtesy are difficult qualities to combine, but I do my best to let people down, usually women but more recently even men, as easily as I can. Usually, I do not reply at all. I clearly state my marital status, that I have been married for 46 years, and that I am not interested in another relationship of romance or sex. I sometimes indicate my general life-style involving as it does writing and publishing, editing and research, and encourage these people to go to my website, if they want to know more about me. For the most part, all these people are looking for some kind of mating-or-dating relationship, and I can be of no help to them.
Often, as I say, especially in the case of those looking for: romance and a date, or sex and intimacies of all sorts, or a partner and soul-mate, I don't reply at all. Not wanting to get someone's hopes up high and give them unrealistic expectations of what service or help I can provide, it is often better that I do not respond at all to the request that comes in. Requests come in all sorts of colours and codes, dimensions and sizes. There is such a variety of invitations and overtures, proposals and propositions---to do so many different things that come my way. They come in the course of a day and a week, a month and a year. I could list here over three dozen dating and mating sites from which I have received emails.
Personals are generally meant to generate romance, friendship, casual and sometimes sexual encounters. They usually, or at least often, include a basic description of the person posting it, and their interests. Go to this link for more:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/50-years/2013/feb/09/personals/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=February+
THE BIG PICTURE
Some readers here might come to think that, since I now have millions of readers, I am on my way to becoming famous or rich or both. Far from it. In the world of cyberspace there are, as of June 2014, 15+ billion pages of documents, depending on what source one goes to for this statistic, some 300-400 million websites and 2 to 3 billion internet participants. My site and my writing is but a needle, as I say above, in that proverbial cyberspace haystack.
COMPUTERS AND MY CAREER AS A WRITER
The computer really changed my life—and, no doubt, the lives of most other writers. For what word processing did was make it possible for me to write something and then, without having to retype it, save it and revise it as many times as I felt necessary. I was liberated from wite-out, the water-based correction fluid and the various forms of correction tape, the latter only coming onto the market in the early 1990s. There were also many varieties of typewriter I had used for 25 years from, say, 1962 to 1987. I have now enjoyed nearly 30 years, from 1986 to 2014, of word processing in which I can make changes without retyping the entire document. If I make a typing mistake, I simply back up the cursor and correct my mistake. If I want to delete a paragraph, I simply remove it, without leaving a trace. It is equally easy to insert a word, sentence, or paragraph in the middle of a document. Word processors also make it easy to move sections of text from one place to another within a document, or between documents. When I have made all the changes I want, I can send the fileto a printer to get a hard copy.
To cognitive neuroscientists the online reading experience is the subject of great fascination and growing alarm. Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia. "I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing," said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.
The various internet media have been changing my reading & writing practices, my textual conventions, & even the genres of my writing. There is now an entire field which examines the social and critical issues in computer technology and literacy. The field, which in the United States has grown out of rhetoric and composition studies, is inter-disciplinary. Members also do scholarly work and teaching in such allied and diverse areas as technical & professional communication, linguistics, & sociology. Go to this link for more on this topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computers
In addition, e-mail has made it possible for me to communicate with editors & other writers all over the world. I can send them material that arrives in little more than an instant. I do book reviews for online journals and newsletters, magazines and forums. These reviews are not so much for the scholarly journals read by professors who teach communication in universities, but the more populist sites in cyberspace. Book review editors send me e-mail messages asking me whether I’m interested in writing a review of this book or that one, and if I say “yes,” he or she sends the book to me. When I’ve written the review, I e-mail it to them. From time to time someone sends me a book by e-mail. It is divided into several parts and each part is sent to me as a separate file.
Over the years, say, 1994 to 2014, I have written several online books. I had found, in the years before 1994, that publishers were generally not interested in my several varieties of literary offerings and, so it was, that I was more than happy to leave the world of publishers with their particular agendas. I sat down at the computer, beginning in the late 1980s, and began to assemble several volumes of autobiography, hundreds of essays and literally 1000s of prose-poems. I spent some time adding material here & there to provide continuity, editing as I went. I now have millions of words in cyberspace and millions of readers. The computer has, as I say, really revolutionized my life, my publishing life. I know very little about how computers work. This always mystifies several of my friends who want to explain to me, in detail, how my computer works, but I always say: “Look, If anything goes wrong, I’ve got someone to fix things.” I've got my wife, my son, and a chap here in this little town who only charges $30/hour.
The number of writers and others who rely on their sons and daughters, & in some cases wives or husbands & grandchildren, to fix things when computers go awry, must be legion. I never spend more than a couple of hours writing at a time. Because of my productivity, many think I’m at the computer ten or twelve hours a day, but that isn’t true. When I decide to write a book or as essay, a poem or some piece of writing, for some website or for myself, I work on it steadily, but seldom more than two or three hours at a time. You can do a lot of writing in 2 hours, if you don’t waste time daydreaming & playing computer games, or engaging in what are now endless forms of distraction: TV & socializing, online sites like Facebook and Twitter with their vast potential for utter trivia. According to Gloria Mark, a leader in interruption science, the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes, and, once distracted, a worker takes nearly a half-hour to resume the original task. For more on the subject of distraction go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distraction
PUBLISHING MY BOOKS: 2003 TO 2014
I can remember how thrilled I was back in 2003 to finally get one of my books published. By 2003 my academic career was over; I had ended my FT teaching in 1999, and my PT teaching in 2003. Publishing a book made no difference to my academic career, and there was little to no trauma in getting that book published. That success did serve as an encouragement to continue my writing, though, and after another dozen years I found myself with at least a dozen books. I never thought I’d write that many books, but somehow I got ideas for new books as the years went on.
Depending on how I defined a book I could say that, by 2014, I had twenty-four books, perhaps as many as forty books. It's a somewhat complex process in cyberspace. From my list of books you can get a sense of my interests. One reason my books were 'published' is because they are “accessible” in cyberspace. That means I didn’t throw fancy jargon around or write in a style that many university & graduate students learn, a style which is highly stylized and often quite pretentious. Publishing includes the stages of the development, acquisition, copy editing, graphic design, production – printing and its electronic equivalents, & marketing & distribution of newspapers, magazines, books, literary works, musical works, software and other works dealing with information, including the electronic media.
Publication is also important as a legal concept, although these legalities do not, for the most part, concern me. Publishing in this legal sense is seen: (i) as the process of giving formal notice to the world of a significant intention, for example, to marry, to enter bankruptcy or to inform others of the existence of some piece of my literary works; (ii) as the essential precondition of being able to claim defamation; that is, the alleged libel must have been published, and (iii) for copyright purposes where there is a difference in the protection of published and unpublished works. As I say above, issues of libel and defamation, copyright and various issues in relation to the protection of my work do not conern me, at least not thusfar.
There are 2 categories of publisher: (a) non-paid publishers which refers to those publication houses which do not charge an author at all to publish the book, and (b) paid publishers where the author has to meet with the total expense to get the book published and author has full right to set up marketing policies. This is also known as vanity publishing. I am, to all intents and purposes, a non-paid publisher, and I deal with other non-paid publishers who publish what I send them. I am also involved, as a self-publisher, in all the stages of publishing: the development, acquisition, copy editing, graphic design, printing and the electronic equivalents of production, as well as marketing and distribution of my material across the vast landscape that is cyberspace.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I found publishing books, essays and poetry to be quite a frustrating process, for a variety of reasons. By 2003 I had given-up the idea of publishing a book, an essay or a poem by means of traditional publishers. Writers find that copy-editors go over their manuscripts and ask millions of questions. When these same writers go over the page proofs and take care of the index, they find that there are frequently long delays at the printers. Sometimes their editors make all kinds of suggestions, and these editors often send a writer's manuscripts to other writers, academics and professors, all of whom make other suggestions and at times really want a writer to virtually rewrite the book the way they would have written it. Sometimes, in the process, a writer's book gets trashed. I did not experience much of this because I realized, by sensible and insensible degrees, incrementally, year after year in the 1980s and 1990s, that dealing with publishers was, for me, a totally non-productive exercise, a sort of miasma of waitings, no answers, answers with caveats and conditions. All, as I say above, was a frustrating process.
George Bernard Shaw(1856-1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. He was also an essayist, novelist and short story writer. It is his attitude and approach to publishers that interests me and I summarize what he thought of publishers below.
George Bernard Shaw worked with publishers all his writing life in his attempts to get his novels and plays, essays and assorted writings published. From the late 1870s to the early 1940s he worked with publishers and there are now special collections of the letters to and from these publishers. His communications with his numerous publishers, five in the main, repeatedly emphasized his unwavering belief that the author must take care of himself. If he or she were to make any money from his published work, the method of doing so would also be his own responsibility. This has been my approach in the last dozen years since eliminating publishers entirely from my agenda. I don't make any money, but I'm interested in getting readers not making money.
As early as 1895 Shaw wrote to a bookseller that the one service publishers had done for him was to teach him “to do without them." That is what I have done since the early years of the 21st century, after 20 years of thinking they were essential to the publication of my work. Until the internet really got going, publishers were essential, indispensable. But not so now in the twenty-first century.
"Publishers combine commercial rascality," wrote Shaw, "with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good business men or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary to the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without any intermediary parasite.” Now, I have dispensed with the bookseller. There is just me & my readers. I do my own publicizing through a range of what are called optimization strategies. In time Shaw would almost always get his way with his various publishers. I get my own way because I no longer have to discuss the vast range of details I did for the two decades in which I was in the hands of publishers, the 1980s and the 1990s.
Shaw would tell publishers very specifically how his work should be printed, what paper and fonts should be used, what the page layout should look like, how his books must be bound, copyrighted, priced, marketed, and so on. His general opinion and judgment of publishers’ shortcomings changed little over his sixty-year writing career. In due course Shaw, who found most publishers incompetent, manufactured his books himself. Shaw’s business acumen, as his collected letters illustrate time and again, was undoubtedly a major factor in his becoming one of the last century’s best-selling authors. I am slowly developing my own business acumen as I deal with the labyrinthine network of the world-wide-web.
I wonder how Shaw would have contended in this digital age. There are now several ways and means that are available to writers and authors like myself. With traditional typesetting a thing of the past, books are often proofed and manufactured in India or China; authors who are involved in this process have less and less to say about the publishing process. At least that is one of the new publishing formats and modus operandi. All of what I write is placed in cyberspace and is distributed over the Internet. All of my content lives in an electronic universe. The consumer may read my published and unpublished content on a website, on a tablet device or on their computer. In some cases my reader may print the content using: (i) a consumer-grade-ink-jet or laser printer, (ii) a print-on-demand system, or (iii) any number of devices using personal printers which are primarily designed to support individual users,& may be connected to only a single computer. These printers are designed for low-volume, short-turnaround print jobs, requiring minimal setup time to produce a hard copy of a given document. These printers are generally slow devices ranging from 6 to around 25 pages per minute, and the cost per page is relatively high. However, this is offset by the on-demand convenience. Some printers can print documents stored on memory cards or from digital cameras and scanners. For a detailed overview of electronic publishing go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_publishing For more on Shaw and publishers go to:http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/annual_of_bernard_shaw_studies/v030/30.wilmeth.pdf
It’s always interesting for me to watch people in bookstores. They pick up a book, glance at the front & back cover, look at the table of contents, and put it down, all in about a minute’s time. When I think of the amount of work involved in writing a book and trying to get it published, I always marvel that books are treated in such a cavalier manner. But, of course, I’m speaking from the perspective of a writer. I write a book—because I’m interested in the subject, because I want to find out more about it, and because I want to discover what ideas I had that I never recognized until I started writing. I used to go looking for a publisher occasionally back in the 1980s and 1990s but, by the 21st century and with the internet opening-up windows of opportunity, I never looked back at publishers again.
Every book of mine represents a lot of work, but I get no pay-off from publishers in hard & soft-cover forms of the traditional mode. Now that I have a substantial number of books that have been 'published' in cyberspace, writing a book before getting a commitment from a publisher is simply not part of my literary MO. There is still some element of risk, and I must confess that I’m not always successful in 'publishing' books I’ve written across the vast landscapes of cyberspace. Here I am with book after book coming off the presses into the internet. In some ways I could see each book as meaning nothing, or so it sometimes seems. No job offers, no help in getting grants, no help in my academic career. It has given me a lot of psychic income and ego strength, however no income and readers on the world-wide-web are nebulous creatures for the most part: ticks and clicks, friends and endorsements, occasional words of praise and occasional criticisms.
One problem with writing oneself into existence is that one may face a problem when one stops writing. Will I cease to exist in 2044 at the age of 100 with my wife possibly wiping my bottom or a stranger in a nursing home. Who knows what the end-game will be? I do not mean to suggest that I haven’t got any ideas for new books, for my brain is still teaming with ideas. I’m really alluding to an existential dilemma that I, and all writers, unconsciously recognize. Maybe I can modify my publishing ethos and say that for me as a writer, “to be is to be in print in cyberspace” or “to be is to be reviewed and commented upon” or some combination of the two.
SOME OF MY INTEREST IN BLOGGING
If bloggers are paid a salary, given a book contract, or have a press credential; if bloggers are set up with a blog in/for a magazine, a company, or a newspaper; if these bloggers write for pay, then they often worry about lawsuits, sentence structure, and word choice. They worry about their boss, their publisher, their mother, and their superego looking over their shoulder. And that’s one way to blog. Many, indeed millions, have come to see the purposes of blogs in personal terms having nothing to do with making money or keeping the boss happy. Now, in these opening years of the second decade of the existence of blogs, it's a wide, wide, wonderful world for bloggers---and it's a dog's breakfast of stuff.
Blogging, at its freest, is like going to a masked ball. You can remain anonymous. You can say all the spiteful, infantile things you wouldn’t dream of saying if you were in print or face to face with another human being. You can flirt with anyone, or try to. You can tell the President exactly what you think of him. You can have political opinions your friends would despise you for. You can even libel people you don’t like and hide behind an alias. It’s very hard to get back at anonymous bloggers who defame you. At least this is the case in the USA due to an act of Congress; anyway, website administrators aren’t liable for what’s written on their sites. Erasing anything on the Web is often almost impossible, although that is not entirely the case. You can assume a new identity and see how it flies—no strings attached. If you want to read more about this sort of blog-freedom and the complexities of blogging go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/feb/14/blogs/
MY BLOGGING ROLE
My role, my stance, the way I play blogging at this masked ball--to use this same metaphor--is quite different from the above description. I go to the masked ball as myself and play my life and my personality in each situation as I find it. It is really not much different from real life. You take me the way you find me as is often said in everyday life. As I head through my 70s from 2014 to 2024, and on new medications for my bipolar disorder, I am not able to handle interaction with others except for very brief periods of time in real space. And so it is that the internet and blogging allows me to play, to participate, in the theatre that is life in a new medium: not real space but cyberspace in a quite personally meaningful and satisfying way.
There are many ways of describing blogs and, if there is an essence to blogging and to blogs, it eludes description as so many essences in life do. Bloggers assume that, if you’re reading them, then you’re one of their friends, at least in the sense that you are privy to some bit of gossip, some personal photo, some joke, or the names that are dropped. Bloggers often begin their posts mid-thought or mid-rant, so to speak. They don’t care if they leave you in the dust. They’re not responsible for your education. "Bloggers", as Mark Liberman one of the founders of the blog called Language Log once noted, "are like Plato." Liberman continued: "The unspoken message is 'Hey, I’m here talking with my buddies. Keep up with me or don’t. It’s up to you.'"
I began to study Plato in first year university, in the autumn of 1963. I then taught his ideas off-and-on in the 40 years after my first philosophy class in the following autumn of 1964. Plato was on my studying and teaching agenda from 1965 to 2005. From 2006 to 2014, I read more about Plato and did some online publishing on the subject. I encourage readers of this sub-section of my website, to read the beginning of Plato’s famous work The Republic. I play in, and utilize, the blog world more gently than many writers and bloggers, than many apologists for many causes. Some bloggers are gentle and some harsh. If you want to get some idea of my blog style in the early stage(2006 to 2014) of the operation of my many blogs go to this somewhat long link: http://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&cp=11&gs_id=36&xhr=t&q=Ron+Price%27s+Blogs&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&. Blogs really came into my life only after all FT, PT and casual-paid employment ceased in 2005, some 55 years: 1950 to 2005.
New Journalism was a style of 1960s and 1970s news writing. It was a journalism which used literary techniques deemed unconventional at the time. The term was codified with its current meaning by American author and journalist Tom Wolfe(1931- ) in a 1973 collection of journalism articles he published as The New Journalism. This collection included works by himself, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Robert Christgau, Gay Talese and others. Articles in The New Journalism style tended not to be found in newspapers, but rather in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, CoEvolution Quarterly, Esquire, New York, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and for a short while in the early 1970s, Scanlan's Monthly. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Journalism
THE DECLINE OF THE NEWSPAPER
The press has the blues. Many authorities have assured the press that its days are numbered; many good newspapers are in ruins. The newspaper has lost much of its former public respect. Courts that once treated the newspaper like a sleeping tiger now taunt it with insolent subpoenas. These same courts put in jail reporters who refuse to play ball with prosecutors. The newspaper is now abused relentlessly on talk radio and at Internet blogs. It is easily bullied into acquiescing in the designs of a presidential propaganda machine determined to dominate the news. Its advertising and circulation are being drained away by the Internet, and its owners seem stricken by a failure of the entrepreneurial imagination. This imagiantion is needed if the newspaper is to prosper in this electronic age. Surveys showing that more and more young people get their news from television and computers are breeding a melancholy sense that the press is yesteryear’s thing, a horse-drawn buggy on an eight-lane interstate. For more on this increasingly complex topic go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/aug/16/goodbye-to-newspapers/
MY VOICE AS JOURNALIST
My voice is but one of millions now even with the millions of words I have on the internet and even with my many blogs. The following paragraphs, entitled GOOGLE-MICROSOFT, try to summarize the evolution of my involvement in cyberspace since the mid-1990s as the internet became increasingly the powerful force it has become in the last 18 years: 1997 to 2014, the years I have had a website. In the first year after I retired from FT work, July 1999 to July 2000, Google officially became the world's largest search engine. With its introduction of a billion-page index by June 2000 much of the internet's content became available in a searchable format at one search engine. In the next several years, 2000-2005, as I was retiring from PT work, as well as casual and most volunteer activity that had occupied me for decades, Google entered into a series of partnerships and made a series of innovations that brought their vast internet enterprize billions of users in the international marketplace. I was one.
Not only did Google have billions of users, but internet users like myself throughout the world gained access to billions of web documents in Google’s growing index/library. The information revolution set off in the closing decade of the 20th century by the invention of the World Wide Web transformed irreversibly much of human activity. Internet communication, which has the ability to transmit in seconds the entire contents of libraries that took centuries of study to amass, vastly enriched the intellectual life of anyone able to use it, as well as providing sophisticated training in a broad range of professional fields. It was a finer and more useful library than any of those in the small towns where I would spend my retirement in the years ahead. It was also a library with a myriad locations in which I could interact with others and engage in learning and teaching in ways I had never dreamt of in the first five decades of my life as a student and teacher: 1949-1999.
This electronic system of communication that is the internet has built a sense of shared community among its users that is impatient of either geographic or cultural distances. This description of the sense of shared community has proved to be an increasingly prescient insight into the nature and evolution of internet use worldwide in this last decade. It is interesting to note that Friendster began in 2001, Linkedin and Myspace in 2003, and Facebook in 2004--all deeply infused with this concept of shared community.
The internet is a cornucopia of accurate, well-argued and knowledgeable information. But it is also a place for specious and spurious, inaccurate and beguiling arguments. People who know little about an issue are often easily taken-in on the internet. Many often believe a u-tube post they can see to one that requires study and reading on their part. The internet, like many forms of technology before it, is both boon and beast, asset and debit, to the lives of its participants. Indeed, a quite separate section of this statement on my cyberspace experience could be devoted to the negative and positive impacts of the internet.
MORE ON U-TUBE
I could place the following paragraphs on the subject of U-tube at two or three other sub-sections of my website but, somewhat arbitrarily, I'm placing them here. "In 2006 Thailand announced it was blocking access to YouTube for anyone with a Thai address," so began the article which continued: "they then identified 20 offensive videos for Google to remove as a condition of unblocking the site. For the article on the subject of U-tube by Jeffrey Rosen on 28/11/'08 in The New York Times go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/magazine/30google-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&
‘If your whole game is to increase market share,’ says Lawrence Lessig, speaking of Google, ‘it’s hard to . . . gather data in ways that don’t raise privacy concerns, or in ways that might help repressive governments to block controversial content.’ In March of 2007, Nicole Wong, the deputy general counsel of Google, was notified that there had been a precipitous drop in activity on YouTube in Turkey, and that the press was reporting that the Turkish government was blocking access to YouTube for virtually all Turkish Internet users.
Apparently unaware that Google owned YouTube, Turkish officials didn’t tell Google about the situation: a Turkish judge had ordered the nation’s telecom providers to block access to the site in response to videos that insulted the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which is a crime under Turkish law. Wong scrambled to figure out which videos provoked the court order and made the first in a series of tense telephone calls to Google’s counsel in London and Turkey, as angry protesters gathered in Istanbul.
Today the Web is, for the most part, a free-speech panacea: it has given anyone with Internet access the potential to reach a global audience. Technology enthusiasts celebrate the raucous explosion of Web speech, but there is less focus on how the Internet is actually regulated, and by whom. As more and more speech migrates online, to blogs and social-networking sites and the like, the ultimate power to decide who has an opportunity to be heard, and what anyone may say, lies increasingly with Internet service providers, search engines and other Internet companies like Google,Yahoo, AOL, Facebook and even eBay. As I say above, if you want more on this subject go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/magazine/30google-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&
GOOGLE AND MICROSOFT
In 1994, at the age of fifty and as I was beginning to eye my retirement from FT work as a teacher and lecturer, Microsoft launched its public internet web domain with a home page. Website traffic climbed steadily and episodically in the years 1995 to 1999. Daily site traffic of 35,000 in mid-1996 grew to 5.1 million visitors by 1999 when I had taken a sea-change and retired to Tasmania at the age of 55. Throughout 1997 and 1998 the site grew up and went from being the web equivalent of a start-up company to a world-class organization.
I retired from FT work, then, at just the right time in terms of the internet capacity to provide me with: (a) access to information by the truckload on virtually any topic; and (b) learning and teaching opportunities, both direct and indirect, far in excess of any I had had in my previous years as a student and teacher. My first website in 1997 was part of the initial flourish of web sites and search engines in the mid-1990s. The second edition of my site was in 2001. A world, a succession, of brand names have made electronic communication an everyday experience. Web browsers such as Netscape, Internet Explorer, and Safari, as well as search engines such as Yahoo and Google, the latter founded in 1998, all came on board just as I was retiring from 50 years in classrooms as a teacher and student.
This new technology had also developed sufficiently to a stage that gave me the opportunity, the capacity to post, write, indeed, “publish” is quite an appropriate term, on the internet at the same time. From 1999 to 2005, as I say, I released myself from FT, PT, casual and most volunteer work, and Google and Microsoft offered more and more technology for my writing activity for my work in a Cause that I had devoted my life to since my late teens and early twenties.
The Internet has become emblematic in many respects of globalisation. Its planetary system of fibre optic cables and instantaneous transfer of information are considered, by many accounts, one of the essential keys to understanding the transformation of the world into some degree of order and the ability to imagine the world as a single, global space. The Internet has widely been viewed as an essential catalyst of contemporary globalisation and it has been central to debates about what globalisation means and where it will lead.
WHO READS WHAT I WRITE?
There are now several hundred thousand readers, as I say above--perhaps millions---engaged in parts of my internet tapestry, my jig-saw puzzle, my literary product, my creation, my immense pile of words across the internet--and hundreds of people with whom I correspond on occasion as a result. This amazing technical facility, the world wide web, has made this literary success possible. If my writing had been left in the hands of the traditional hard and soft cover publishers, where it had been without success when I was employed full time as a teacher, lecturer, adult educator and casual/volunteer teacher from 1981 to 2001, these results would never have been achieved.
When I write about popular culture, I would like to think that my pieces are the best things about popular culture that readers have ever seen. By the time readers reach the end of my pieces, I want them to feel, to not want the pieces to end, which is always an even better sign with journalism than it is with a book. Sadly, there are many bloggers and online journalists who write about popular culture far better than I do. I do not write classic pieces on popular culture. This is partly because, however much it was necessary for me to have what you might call a working knowledge of the popular-everyday stuff. my heart and my mind were only in that domain of culture for a small part of my time, my life-narrative.
I do not need the permission of other writers on popular culture to include their pieces here because there are few pieces here. I leave that subject to the 1000s of other writers who fill the spaces of cyberspace with stuff about: music and madness, gardens and galivanting, food and fashion, cars and cats, dogs and dolphins. I am happy to let others present popular culture in all its finest modes and manners. For the delight of older visitors to my site, visitors who might regret that that they did not know more about contemporary popular culture and its control, and for the instruction of younger visitors, from all over the world, who might nurse dreams of getting into the kind of journalism in their own countries, journalism concerned with popular culture, I encourage them one and all to go elsewhere to the literally millions of places on the net where they can engorge themselves.
If a writer understands the discipline of putting opinion and fact together so that one blends with the other without blurring its edges, such a writer is made for our modern world. This skill helps readers to learned a great deal fast and with so much to learn these days, that writer might just make a million. I have been asked how I have come to have so many readers at my website and on my internet tapestry of writing that I have created across the world-wide-web. It is not because I possess that writing style to which I have just referrred.
My literary product is just another form of published writing in addition to the traditional forms in the hands of publishers. I have literally hundreds of thousands of readers, perhaps even millions, since it has become impossible to keep even a rough account of the numbers of those who come across what I write. There are now more than 8000 locations, websites, on my tapestry of prose and poetry, a tapestry I have sewn in a loose-fitting warp and weft across the internet. All of this is at places where I have registered: forums, message boards, discussion sites, blogs, locations for debate and the exchange of views. They are sites to place essays, articles, books, ebooks, poems and other genres of writing. I have registered at this multitude of sites, placed the many forms of my literary output there and engaged in discussions with literally thousands of people, little by little and day by day over the last decade. I enjoy these results without ever having to deal with publishers as I did for two decades without any success.
As a final note I would like to add an element of my work which is important to me as a member of the Baha'i Faith. In the years 1997 to 2013, the years I am discussing in relation to the WWW, a new culture of learning and growth, a new paradigm, became part of the Baha'i international community's outreach and internal activity. My journalistic work on the net and this website I see as part of this new Baha'i culture, part of my own individual initiative in relation to my community responsibilities within this new culture, this new paradigm. There are many writers who are what you might call quasi-a-kind-of journalist. Some do their journalism in aphorisms, in novels, in poetry, in essays, inter alia. Some writers despise the essay; some despise outright journalism. If a beginner is sensitive enough to his own deficiencies, he soon discovers, head in hands, that composition is three quarters of the trick. You can have all the vocabulary there is, and any amount of linguistic inventiveness, but you have to learn to put it all in the right order.
Many of the essayists and journalists I read, are chosen for being able to put it all together in ways I enjoy reading. My hope is that some of the visitors who come to my site will enjoy what is here to be read; I hope they will be lured back by the pleasure they derive from their reading here. Somebody else's original gift can't be duplicated, but the study of it can always help to make us a more careful guardian of our own writing. Meanwhile, even if the reader has no plans to be a writer himself, there is always an extra fascination in watching a craftsman at work. Writing in any form is never just the style, but it isn't just the subject either. For more on this subject readers can go to the following link for a book I have written on this subject, a book of over 500 pages:http://bahai-library.com/price_culture_learning_paradigm
Advocacy Journalism can be defined as journalistic praxis, that is, reflective practice. A journalist who focuses on evidence-based reporting coupled with a standpoint, engages in advocacy journalism. On the other hand, opinion journalism, exemplified by newspaper editorials and media punditry, is not always expected to involve the same degree of in-depth investigation. Nonetheless, the distance separating the two fields is murky, and the terms are sometimes employed interchangeably. Various designations for advocacy journalism, or species of advocacy journalism, have been used throughout the years. These have included: (i) radical journalism, a term largely employed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, (ii) critical journalism, (iii) activist journalism, and (iv) social justice journalism. However, advocacy journalism appears to be most common in contemporary discourse as we head through these first years of the second decade of this 21st century.
I usually define myself as an activist journalist by which I mean: a journalist who is embedded in movements for social change. I identify with the movements I write about. I’m not a propagandist for those movements. I see myself as committed to the truth, and to fact-checking. I’m proud to be associated with, aligned with, these movements. Of course I’m an author.-Naomi Klein, "Naomi Klein on Activist Journalism." Mediahacker, excerpted from an interview on YouTube, and retrieved on July 1, 2009.
Naomi Klein(b.1970-) is a Canadian author and social activist known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization. She is best known for No Logo, a book that went on to become an international bestseller, & The Shock Doctrine, a critical analysis of the history of neoliberal economics. For more on Klein go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_Klein
ADVOCACY JOURNALISM: Part II
The term advocacy journalism describes the use of journalism techniques to promote a specific political or social cause. The term is potentially meaningful only in opposition to a category of journalism that does not engage in advocacy, so-called objective journalism or, perhaps as some might describe it, objective reportage. This distinction tended to be a focus of attention in the United States, especially in the second half of the twentieth century. This is not necessarily so elsewhere in the world. Use of these terms does not necessarily translate to other kinds of political and social landscapes. The US, and more generally western, models are becoming dominant. In western Europe, some newspapers have long identified openly with a political position, even though journalists from these papers are considered professionals not typically engaged in advocacy.--Robert Jensen, "Advocacy Journalism." Wolfgang Donsbach, editor, The International Encyclopedia of Communication, Hoboken, NJ. Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Retrieved on June 21, 2009. For much more on this subject go to this link:http://markfoster.org/aj.html
ADVOCACY JOURNALISM: PART III
Critical journalism tends to be a more negative version of soft news. It is characterized by journalists who will stop at nothing to expose scandal, deceit, and mistakes in government. Former PBS anchor Robert MacNeil is referring to critical journalism when he says that the trends “are toward the sensational, the hype, the hyperactive, the tabloid values, and they drive-out the serious." Matthew Carleton Ehrlich describes today’s news as “the journalism of outrageousness.” Merriman, Erin, "Soft News, the Rise of Critical Journalism, and How to Preserve Democracy," EDGE, Spring Quarter. Spring 2003. Retrieved on June 24, 2009.
The purpose of radical journalism, at least one of its significant aims, has been to question authority in order to affect social, political, cultural and economic change.--Berry, David. Journalism, Ethics and Society, Surrey, UK, Ashgate. 2008, p. 30. "Before I started to engage in online blogging & journalism, my writing exhibited what I later proactively embraced and described as advocacy journalism. This I defined as writing whose success can only be judged by its ability to produce the real world change being written about." I thank Dave Berman here, for his words could well be mine. His words are found at his Blog: "My Present Path Toward Advocacy Journalism. We Do Not Consent." I retrieved these words nearly 6 years ago now, on 21 June 2009. For more on advoacy journalism go to:http://www.markfoster.net/sociosphere/aj.html
ADVOCACY JOURNALISM: PART IV
The Washington Post's Walter Reed stories, Lou Dobbs on immigration and free trade, and Keith Olbermann's "special comments" are all part of a trend back to a kind of early twentieth-century advocacy journalism. This kind never went away, but rather donned the disguise of objectivity for a few decades. So writes the USA's Peter Johnson in an article by Stephen Spruiell, "The Return of Advocacy Journalism." in National Review Online. March 6, 2007. Retrieved on June 21, 2009.
At the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus, there is a course which examines the representation of race, gender, class and power in the media. The course also examines traditional journalistic practices and newsroom culture. It is intended to prepare students who wish to work in a media-related industry with a critical perspective towards understanding the marginalization of particular groups in the media. This course is taught at the University of Toronto Scarborough and is open only to students in the Joint Program in Journalism. I retrieved this information on 24 June 2009.
Critical journalism tends to be a more negative version of soft news. It is characterized by journalists who will stop at nothing to expose scandal, deceit, and mistakes in government. Former PBS anchor Robert MacNeil is referring to critical journalism when he says that the trends “are toward the sensational, the hype, the hyperactive, the tabloid values to drive out the serious." Matthew Carleton Ehrlich describes today’s news as “the journalism of outrageousness.” --Erin Merriman, "Soft News, the Rise of Critical Journalism, and How to Preserve Democracy." EDGE, Spring 2003. Retrieved on June 24, 2009.
In some instances, advocacy journalism is the same as investigative journalism & muckraking, where these serve the public interest & the public's right to know. Investigative reports often focus on criminal or unethical activity, or aim to advance a generally accepted public interest, such as government accountability, alleviation of human suffering, etc. It might be argued that the journalist is assuming a point of view that public action is warranted to change the situation being described. The most famous example of this was Edward R. Murrow's 'See it Now' series of reports on Sen. Joseph McCarthy back in the 1950s. Back then I was just beginning my own life of commitment to causes, causes that were often, if not usually, not only not popular, but considered strange and obscure in the public, the popular, domain. This was especially true of my commitment to the Baha'i Faith which, in the 1950s in Canada, had less than 1000 adherents across the whole country.
Criticism of Advocacy Journalism
Professional journalists, & members of the public critical of the term Advocacy Journalism, assert that with the sacrifice of a measure of journalist objectivity, the result was bad journalism. This is, they say, reporting that does not serve the public interest. This is essentially editorializing or sensationalizing on the news pages or during electronic news media presentations. The editorializing is not announced but only advocated by the intrinsic structure of the report.
The term might also indicate a serious breach of journalistic canons and standards, such as rumor mongering, yellow journalism, sensationalism or other ethically flawed reportage. A good example of this was the 2004 revelations created by a press leak in the Plame affair, where a leak was alleged to be used to help an office holder's political position. However, a critic of that politician, publicly admitted to being the source of that leak, not the politician in question. Since most readers here will know nothing of this Plame affair, I'm sure they will be able to site other examples which are now legion.
Some fear that the activity of advocacy journalists will be harmful to the reputation of the mainstream press as an objective, reliable source of information. Another concern is that undiscriminating readers will accept the facts and opinions advanced in advocacy pieces as if they were objective and representative, becoming unknowingly and perhaps dangerously misinformed as a result.
Advocacy journalists vary in their response to these criticisms. Some believe that mainstream and "alternative" outlets serve different purposes, & sometimes different audiences entirely, and that the difference is readily apparent to the public. Many believe that the mainstream press is not an objective and reliable source of information, and so doesn't deserve the reputation it seeks to maintain. The above article was entitled "Advocacy Journalism" in Wikipedia. Retrieved on June 24, 2009.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: SOME RECENT ISSUES AND EXAMPLES
From the following tangled history of investigative reporting and espionage has arisen one of the most consequential confrontations between the present government of the USA, and the press in a generation. The Obama administration inherited the case from the Bush administration. The Obama administration pressured James Risen, an investigative reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, aggressively to reveal the sources he relied upon in describing what came to be called “Operation Merlin.” The result, as Risen's book and other evidence make clear, was that the Justice Department’s actions damaged the First Amendment and the rights of journalists. This story is a complex one, but it illustrates many of the issues that involve advocacy journalism & investigative reporting. The story is revealed in a review in The New York Review of Books (19/2/'15)of a new book Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War by James Risen(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). Go to this link for more: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/feb/19/james-risen-reporter-resists-his-government/?insrc=toc
LITERARY CRITICISM: A SUB-SECTION OF JOURNALISM
When this 4th edition of my website is revamped into a 5th edition, probably some time in 2014-2015, I may place the following section on literary criticism in the literature section of my site. For now the most logical place for its home it seems to me is right here in this place in the journalism sub-section of my website. Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.
Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy. A good book review gives a fair account of the book, yet is a well-composed piece in its own right. My current models are Joseph Epstein and V.S. Pritchett. Pritchett is certainly the master of the 1500-word review. As one commentator on the reviews of Pritchett put it: "there was no mistaking a manuscript by Pritchett. It was overlaid with small embellishments in longhand, many of them crossed out and recorrected to the point where the sheet of paper was in places blackened. From a distance of several yards off, you could see that a review by Pritchett was a serious and intricate piece of work."
The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary thinking and Criticism draws no distinction between literary theory and literary criticism, and almost always uses the terms together to describe the same concept. Some critics consider literary criticism a practical application of literary theory, because criticism always deals directly with particular literary works, while theory may be more general or abstract. Literary criticism is often published in essay or book form. Academic literary critics teach in literature departments and publish in academic journals, and more popular critics publish their criticism in broadly circulating periodicals such as the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, The Nation, and The New Yorker.
To date, there is very little published literary criticism of nonfiction works, despite the fact that the genre is often published in respected publications such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper's, Shock Totem and Esquire. A handful of the most widely recognized writers in the genre such as Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, John McPhee, Joan Didion and Norman Mailer, have seen some criticism on their more prominent works. “Critics to date, however, have tended to focus on only one or two of each writer’s works, to illustrate particular critical points.” These analyses of a few key pieces are hardly in-depth or as comprehensive as the criticism and analyses of their fictional contemporaries. As the popularity of the genre continues to expand, many nonfiction authors and a handful of literary critics are calling for more extensive literary analysis of the genre.
In Germany, the name Marcel Reich-Ranicki carries more weight than that of any other literary figure alive. But, if the adjective “greatest” means anything, then according to one of my own literary mentors, the inimitable Clive James, Marcel Reich-Ranicki is the greatest literary critic not only in Germany, but in the world today. Readers of Clive's book Cultural Amnesia, in which Reich-Ranicki plays a starring role, often ask him where they can make a start with him. If they do not read German, they can make a start on the translation of his autobiography, which carries the full horrifying story of his near-death early life as a Jew on the run, with the Warsaw Ghetto bulking large. For more on this big influence on Clive James and, arguably, the greatest literary critic alive, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Reich-Ranicki and to:
READY FOR JOURNALISM AND PUBLISHING by 1999
By the time I came to my own online journalism and publishing, writing and editing, full time, I had had 18 years as a student and another 32 as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator, among many other roles. I guesstimate a minimum of 20,000 hours and a maximum of 40,000 over the fifty years from 1949 to 1999 in these roles. Following the research of the psychologist Anders Ericsson and colleagues who wanted to know why some conservatory students went on to solo and orchestral careers while others ended up as workaday music teachers, Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers: The Story of Success invoked “the 10,000 hour rule." Dr. K. Anders Ericsson is a Swedish psychologist and Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. He is widely recognized as one of the world's leading theoretical and experimental researchers on expertise.
The striking thing about Ericcson’s study of music students was that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” that is musicians who floated effortlessly to the top of the field while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. And what’s more, the people at the very top didn't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder. The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. Researchers, as I indicate above, have settled on what they believe is the magic minimum number for true expertise: ten thousand hours. To put this in a phrase: 99 per cent perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration. Writers like myself, who have logged many thousands more hours than the 10,000 required to claim any expertise, need to be conscious ot Marshall McLuhan's famous aphorism: "never trust the expert." Such an aphorism, of course, needs some nuancing especially in our highly specialized techological society of: dentists and doctors, surgeons and sign-writers, inter alia, whose expertise has become part of the basis for the pleasures we enjoy in our advanced and affluent society.
October 1959 was a personally eventful month. I loved baseball and had just finished by 5th season in the Burlington baseball league. That month I watched the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. I also began my love-affair with The Twilight Zone which debuted on CBS TV. I joined the Baha’i Faith that same October after six years of attending its community functions in what was then the small town of Burlington Ontario; this world Faith has been my lifelong belief system now for more than 50 years. The literary critic, and the most powerful reviewer in the USA, as I was about to retire in 1998, Alfred Kazin, published his The Alone Generation in 1959.(1) This was an incisive and brilliant essay about the failures of modern literature. Kazin would later describe himself as a ‘cultural conservative’ & semi-seriously a ‘literary reactionary.’ He uttered the following cri de coeur:
"I am tired of reading for compassion instead of pleasure. In novel after novel, I am presented with people who are so soft, so wheedling, so importunate, that the actions in which they are involved are too indecisive to be interesting or too indecisive to develop those implications which are the life-blood of narrative." The age of ‘psychological man,’ of the herd of aloners, has finally proved the truth of Tocqueville’s observation that in modern times the average man is absorbed in a very puny object, himself, to the point of satiety.(2)-R. Price with thanks to (1) Harper’s Magazine, October 1959; and (2) Michael Weiss, Alfred Kazin: A Biography by Richard Cook, Yale University Press, 2008.
Did you ever read David Riesman’s
The Lonely Crowd which said that(1)
our problem now is other people, the
immense heterogeneity, & people who
want/need to be loved, to be related-to ,
not esteemed, who live in a glass-house?
The best lack all conviction, while the
worst are full of passionate intensity in a
world where the centre has not held and
anarchy has been loosed upon the world.(2)
What did you make of it all, Alfred, in your
55 years of writing in which everything you
wrote was very personal; you embedded
your opinions in a deep knowledge of history,
politics and all kinds of culture low & high,
elite & popular. Yes, you were self-absorbed.....
.....with a raging life-force, but you never talked
about your inner life, in spite of your endless
autobiographical work, & infectious intellectual
energy, & your dozen books. I’ve written much
about my inner-(3) life with what I hope is an
infectious intellectual energy; I have my dozen
books, self-absorption & most importantly to me,
Alfred, my deep and long-held spiritual beliefs.(4)
(1) Yale UP, 1950; Riesman: sociologist, attorney and educator
(2) W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming written in 1919 in the aftermath of the first World War.
(3) Kazin thought the responsibility of politics was similar to that of criticism, to traffic in a ‘histoire morale.’ Such a traffic should aim to sum-up the spirit of the age in which we live and then ask us to transcend it. The aim of writing, politics and literary criticism, Kazin emphasized, should enable people to see things in a grand perspective not only in the light of man’s history but of his whole striving. Finally, all of this should help human beings create a future in keeping with their imagination.’(Michael Weiss, Alfred Kazin: A Biography by Richard Cook, Yale University Press, 2008, 500 pages) Kazin died in June 1998 as I was eyeing my retirement in 1999 after a 50 year student-and-employment life, 1949 to 1999. I was about to take a sea-change to Tasmania at the age of 55 and reinvent myself as a writer and author.
(4) I became a Baha’i in October 1959, the same month and year that Kazin’s ‘The Alone Generation’ was published in Harper’s Magazine.
14/8/'11 to 16/11/'14.
MY STYLE OF JOURNALISM
My style of journalism does not use close argument nor precise analysis. It takes place entirely in the vast landscape and infinite space that is the internet. I attempt an evocation of the feel and the big-picture that is my subject, together with a lyrical and almost mimicking response to the distinctive sensibility of the author, the topic as it is often popularly conceived, and some of what I hope is my distinctive voice. I seek to blend literary and political analysis, the sociological and the psychological. My internet essays try to tease out the delicate ties between art & politics, the personal and the social. Sometimes I strike off for a territory of reverence and rapture, of awestruck contemplation of the sheer mystery of being alive. Sometimes I seek to plumb the uniqueness of a writer or an event, of an idea or a person.
As a writer I work with many; I am a collaborator; I am cooperative; I try not to sacrifice the excruciating precision of my vision. I am passionately “personal,” passionately excessive; I see myself as a virtuoso of the art of integration and of going too far. The latter is partly due to my bipolar disorder. The former is the result of trying to find the middle way. You can see it in the titles of my essays and poems. The volume of excerpts from my journals, for example, could be called “A Lifetime Burning in Every Moment." But, I play it cool; I play it laid-back. I keep my heat on a low temperature, as far as I am able. I now have the help of anti-psychotic, and anti-depressant medication. I also have the help of an immense fatigue with the social domain, and so I keep that domain, which for over half a century was highly gregarious, to a bare minimum.
There have been many revolutionaries, writers, scientists, painters, ‘new men,’ in the long religious history of the Baha'i Faith going back now over two centuries. There was a zeal with which they engaged themselves in the ‘historic’ task of the planetization of the globe, of the vast integration of the myriad traditions often came from their profound sense of history, a sensibility embedded in the Baha'i Faith itself. These ‘new men’ had a vision of history that, as their critics have often told them, was fanatically all of one piece, obstinately Baha'i and intellectual. It was a vision in which some subtle and not-so-subtle purposiveness to history always managed to reassert itself in the face of repeated horrors, horrors faced by the Baha'i community itself and horrors facing humankind. But what their critics could not recognize was that the obstinate quest for ‘meaning’ was less a matter of conscious thought than a personal necessity, a requirement for survival, the historic circumstance that reasserted itself in case after case among the Baha'is as they sought a unity in diversity in the face of the immense destruction, the great tempest that had faced humankind since at least 1914.
Many of these writers, these Baha'is, had good reason to believe that their lives were a triumph over every possible negation. Yet there was in these men and women a modesty. It was a modesty of those for whom life itself is understandably the greatest good. They found it an immense challenge to engage in the political and philosophic reasoning that assured them of the world's civic harmony, civic peace, and the life of the mind. They were keen, as well, to avoid the great middle-class world of daily self-satisfaction. It was not an easy task, and many failed at it.
I aim at being something more than a chronicler of life in my society, in the past or the present. I have no fame in the world and am only known in the infinity of cyberspace, in time measured in nanoseconds, across a territory as infinite as the universe, about as meaningful to most of humanity as the eye of a dead ant, to draw on one of the Bab's more colourful analogies.
WITHOUT MR VANCE PACKARD
By far the most significant writer who has written popular books about American society and found a niche outside the academy in the print media from the late 1950's to the late '80's was Vance Packard. He was famous for The Hidden Persuaders (1957), Status Seekers (1959), Pyramid Climbers (1962) and a succession of books until his last in 1989. Through the publication of these books, Packard probably had more influence on the lay public regarding the social dimensions of American society than any other writer or sociologist. Packard's books frequently appeared on best seller lists and young scholars were routinely shocked to find that Packard's works were considered beneath respectable discussion in many classrooms and tended to be disparaged by professional sociologists and public intellectuals, perhaps because they displayed none of the more abstract theorizing that social scientists look for in sociological writings. His books were a type of popular journalism.
Packard was not fully trained in sociology but majored in English and then earned a Master's degree in journalism at Columbia, and from there embarked upon a career in journalism at the start of the Baha’i teaching Plan in 1937. Through the resourceful use of his talents as a writer and his unique insights into American society, he contributed significantly to public understanding of a whole range of topics typically studied by academic sociologists: family and childrearing, sexual patterns, the media, consumerism and wastefulness, isolation and loneliness, and the super rich. In the years immediately before and after I became a Baha’i in Canada, Packard was a very popular writer. My contact with his writings was limited because I had a massive reading list in the late fifties and early sixties in the humanities and my concentration was on just getting though and out into the marketplace.-Ron Price with thanks to “Internet Sites on Vance Packard,” Poetry Booklet Number 58, Ron Price, July 10th 2006.
I remember seeing your books
back in those years when I’d
first started hearing about birds
flying over Akka and martyrs
by the score in lounge rooms
on cold Canadian evenings
when I waited for the talks
to be over and the hot coffee
and cakes to arrive—they seem
like distant cousins, those years,
as distant as Packard himself.
I plowed through more books than
my little brain could stomach, so
motivated I was to make it in the
marketplace, get a job, marry and
raise a family ‘cause that was what
everyone did/everyone whom I had
known, and Packard was never on
reading lists &, by-god, I had more
to read than I ever thought I could
get through, but get through it I did
even without Packard's insights...
10/07/'06 to 1/5/'13.
master essayist of our age
Gore Vidal(b.1925-), who has been called the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson(1895-1972), began his writing career at nineteen, the year I was born. In 1962, the year I began to travel for the Canadian Baha’i community and begin my own serious literary and academic study, Vidal published his first book of essays entitled: Rocking the Boat. Books of his essays and interviews, novels and memoirs kept appearing as I entered the teaching profession in the 1960s and finally retired in the 1990s. He’s still going, although not as strong at 85 and often in a wheel-chair.-Ron Price with thanks to Harry Kloman, “Gore Vidal’s Essays, Interviews and Memoirs: 1963-Present,” 2005.
He always impressed me with
his remarkable wit and talent:
5 decades of scintillating words
in books & live whenever I saw
him in Australia on TV…He saw
the moral-intellectual hollowness
of American politics at about the
same time as I did: in the early 60s.
It was with those Kennedys and so
he spent the rest of his life writing
books and essays & a lot of other
stuff---thinking on paper for a world(1)
slowly captured by those electronic
distractions. Still, we go on talking.
We talk about books and writing them
pretending not to notice that the church
is empty and people have gone over to
attend to other gods in silence or new
words. Surely it’s not that bad Gore?2
1 The Washington Post calls him “the master essayist of our age.” See David Barsamian, “Citizen Gore Vidal,” These Times, 3 November 2008
2 George Scialabba, “Civic Virtues: Gore Vidal’s Selected Essays,” The Nation, 8 October 2008.
3/8/'11 to 1/5/'13.
MORE ON GORE
If I were planning to embark for a far place and stay for several years I would not take the forty-six volumes of the writings of Gore Vidal. There are so many fine essayists I read. Perhaps at a future time I will post a list of the now dozens of essayists who have emerged in the last two decades as the world-wide-web has made them more accessible than in previous decades. Vidal's 46 volumes do not include his pseudonymous work, which I could write about in another essay. Voltaire’s 46 volumes could give Voltaire a run for his money. Voltaire and Vidal seem to me to have several things in common. Both were brilliant talkers; likewise brilliant satirists. Both initially needed money and worked very hard to get it. Both also needed courts to place their well-sharpened darts. Fortunately, they both had courts: Voltaire the Versailles of Louis XV, as well as the Berlin of Frederick the Great and courts of lesser brilliance. Vidal had the Kennedy Camelot in Washington, D.C. back in the 1960s. Since then he has had the courts of the several emperors of the silver screen: Sam Spiegel, for example, and there is probably no better example. Vidal has also had an audience of millions. For more on Vidal go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2006/nov/30/the-lives-of-gore/
Some of MY INTERNET POSTS on journalism and journalism-related topics:
(click on my photo, then on the word 'statistics', and then on the words 'Find all posts by RonPrice)(90 posts)
(if you are registered a this site: click on my photo, then on the word Statistics, then on the words "Find all posts by RonPrice)
THE EBOOK AND ONLINE WRITING
Words on an electronic device, as that fine essayist William Gass(1924- ), an American novelist, short story writer, critic, and former philosophy professor, puts it:: “have no materiality, they are only shadows, and when the light shifts they’ll be gone,” Mr. Gass writes. “Off the screen they do not exist as words. They do not wait to be reseen, reread; they only wait to be remade, relit.” Books, and the libraries that house them, are accessible to all types, incomes and ages, presenting an eternal and eternally changing opportunity for discovery that Mr. Gass contrasts unfavorably to the Internet (“the interbunk”). He talks about how books are passed down through generations, like his 1923 copy of Ben Jonson’s commonplace book, acquiring marginalia and emotional resonance. And he celebrates a book’s stimulus for reminiscence as “more important than a dance card, or the photo that freezes you mid-teeter at the edge of the Grand Canyon”:
“A book can be a significant event in the history of your reading, and your reading should be an essential segment of your character and your life,” he writes. “Unlike the love we’ve made or meals we’ve eaten, books congregate to form a record around us of what we’ve fed our stomachs or our brains. These are not a hunter’s trophies but the living animals themselves.” I like the way Gass expresses the value of a book. But he has changed his attitude to cyberspace in the last decade.
It came as rather a surprise to learn that Mr. Gass has written a 15,000-word essay called “Abstractions Arrive: Having Been There All the Time,” a collaboration with the noted photographer Michael Eastman. It was a surprise because the essay can be read only on an iPad equipped with iBooks 2. Abstractions Arrive is published for $4.99 a copy by Stephen Schenkenberg, who runs the excellent Reading William Gass blog. Although every serious writer should have such an informative blog, few do. The book is not available in any other format. Needing special equipment to read something seemed to go against everything Mr. Gass was defending in his “Defense.” In an interview, he explained how his thinking about technology had shifted over the last decade.
As a writer I am freed from publishers. I am only writing to a select group, but there are dozens of select groups to whom I write. I was pleased to see the changed attitude of Gass.
RETIRED AND AGE 66
THE INIMITABLE JACK NICHOLSON
About Schmidt is a 2002 American drama film directed by Alexander Payne starring Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt and Hope Davis as his daughter Jeannie. In 2003 Payne received a Golden Globe for his screenplay About Schmidt which also won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film is loosely based on the 1996 novel with the same title by Louis Begley.
By 1996, as Begley was getting that novel published, I had my eye on an early retirement at age 55. By 2002 I had retired and taken a sea-change. When I saw this film on TV in 2010 I had been fully retired from FT and PT work as well as many of my casual-volunteer commitments in the Baha’i community for five years. I watch a little TV after a day of reading and writing, research and journalism, editing and independent scholarship. I do this watching after midnight while I have a late night snack. The soporific effects of TV, the alpha waves—so I am told—induced, help me turn off my brain and set up the conditions for a good night of sleep. Occasionally a tasty-movie comes on. About Schmidt was such a visual delight, but after an hour I had to go to bed. In the morning I read the rest of the story on the internet and decided to write this prose-poem.-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 5 October 2010.
Thank you, Alexander, for your dark humour
and satirical depiction of American society. I
must, say, though, I could not help but laugh.
There’s a lot of dark humour in Australia and
I’ve lived Downunder for nearly forty years!!
I’m 66, too, just like Warren Schmidt. He & I
shared many things in-common which I won’t
go into here. But after a few laughs and some
reflection on this movie and my life, a prose--
poem seemed like a good thing to put down.
The evening of one’s life presents a new ball-
game: 60 to 100 has another set of challenges
to the 20 to 60 package if, of course, one lives
that long….At 66 my second package has just
begun and I thank the inimitable-famous Jack
Nicholson for his entertainment and delight!!
5 October 2010
THE LONDON SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
The following prose-poem came from reading some of the output of the London School of Journalism. The London School of Journalism(LSJ) provides journalism courses, freelance classes and creative writing courses by Distance Learning, and as evening classes, short day-time courses and postgraduate diploma courses. The LSJ's distance learning courses cover all aspects of journalism and creative writing. Their postgraduate courses cover news, features, freelance, media law, broadcast and internet journalism. They have a four week summer school every August, and a range of evening classes and daytime short courses which are held throughout the year. Postgraduate courses can be taken as online courses or as attendance courses in London. Our distance learning students come from all over the world, and many use our email course delivery so that all their work and assignments are delivered in this way.
Distance learning, utilising modern communications, allows student and teacher to work closely together, regardless of physical location. The LSJ has been teaching journalism and creative writing for nearly 90 years, and unlike most 'schools' who offer distance learning courses they are a real school, staffed by real journalists and writers who enjoy working with real students. This institution continues to lead the way in developing new and effective teaching methods. The result is demonstrated by the success of their students.
Some poets, writers and artists are famous or infamous for obtruding their authorial persona onto or into the business of their work. I am such an obtruder. I feel an expansiveness when I write; I am aware of both a simplicity as well as a complexity; I am aware of both a difficulty of personality and a simple ease. These dichotomies and others permeate everything I write; in the process I find, I obtain, some sense, some detail, of myself as a person in my work, sometimes more than others. This was also true of the writer Ben Jonson(1572-1637).(1) T. S. Eliot in his discussion of Johnson wrote that "Jonson behaved as the great creative mind that he was: he created his own world.” It was a world from which his readers and the dramatists of his time, who were trying to do something wholly different than Jonson, were excluded.(2) -Ron Price with thanks to (1)L.A. Beaurline, "Moralists, Scoundrels and Ninnies." Modern Language Quarterly, 46.3, 1985, pp. 316-325; and (2) T.S. Eliot, Essays on Elizabethan Drama, Harcourt, Brace & World Inc., NY, 1932, p.78.
I, too, created my own world,
not to exclude others, but to be
as inclusive as the air and sky.
Authors are ideas, historical
developments that become
attached gradually to their
writing, their ethos and lives.(1)
The masks, personae, facts,
situations, philosophies and
environments I have chosen
to live in and behind are not
so opaque and the increasing
number of scenes I describe
are mouthpieces, mise en scene.
Some of my story is of an isolated,
elevated, autonomous person.
The understanding and direction
of my authorial, literary career
is a slowly evolving one
and my attitude to my gifts
and toward the world from
which and on which I work
is partly related to my vitality
and the creativity where it grows.
I trust I am a poet finding himself,
not a perverted artist who can only
be made worse if he persists in a
failure to recognize his limitations.
I know only too well that if I trouble
my readers I will also trouble myself.
Control is no easy thing in writing
since, in many ways, a writer is a
historical development as well as
present reality. Any serious artist
must be prepared for the dirt which,
justly or unjustly, he has and he will
receive, perhaps, more than his fair
share along with his piece of praise.
(1) Kathleen A. Prendergast, “Ben Johnson Unmasked,” London School of Journalism Homepage, January 2006. In this essay Bruce Thomas Boehrer writes that "Jonson is famous for obtruding his authorial persona onto the business of his plays." L.A. Beaurline also notes that "Jonson's expansive, difficult personality so permeates everything he did that it is possible to find the man in his work at nearly every turn." Bruce Thomas Boehrer, "Epicoene, Charivari, Skimmington." English Studies 75.1, 1994, pp. 17-33.
January 3rd 2006 to 15 June 2011
I watched Bettina Arndt on Big Ideas last night.(1) Big Ideas broadcast a talk at the National Press Club on 2 September 2010 by Bettina Arndt. Arndt is an Australian sex therapist, journalist and clinical psychologist. She is also an entertaining and articulate speaker for whom the words roll off the tongue with a garrulousness that is engaging. She talked about why sex matters so much to men; and she also launched a campaign to end the discrimination against male cancer victims. Her latest book is another one of her diary projects looking at male sexuality. The book is entitled What Men Want—In Bed and was published 1 September 2010. Arndt's previous book The Sex Diaries was published in 2009 and was built on a foundation of diaries kept by 98 couples, plus a survey of the relevant research on the subject. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC24 TV, 21 January 2011.
I’ll let you—dear reader—check-out
Sheehan’s article yourself----his very
excellent overview of Arndt’s views.(1)
This delightful, engaging writer has(2)
been on my agenda since the 1970s
when I, too, got into teaching about
relationships. She was born 5 years
after me and graduated 4 years after
I did…She was appointed editor of
an adult sex magazine in 1974 that(3)
was the same year I was appointed
as the senior tutor human relations.
I worked at the Tasmanian College
of Advanced Education & involved
myself in the embryonic phases of
community-building for the Baha’i
Faith. She remained there as editor
until July 1982 as I worked at a tin
mine and then all over Australia: an
expert in nothing teaching a variety
of subjects--and by 1999 I was ready
to go solo, retire to a world of writing,
editing, research, publishing, poetry, &
journalism as well as some scholarship.
Bettina, you have made a name for yourself
and it was a pleasure listening to you at the
National Press Club tonight. “Goodonyer,”
as they say Downunder. “Goodonyer!!!”
(1) Paul Sheehan, “The secret desires of men, and why they go unfulfilled,” Sydney Morning Herald Online, 2 September 2010.
(2) Bettina Arndt
(3) Forum was the name of the magazine
21 January 2011
CLIVE JAMES AND HIS JOURNALISM
I would like to say a few things about Clive James’ new book Cultural Amnesia. James’s book is prompted, to some extent, by the suspicion that a new age of barbarism is indeed descending. He has lots of company in this view. My recent memoir(5 volumes in 2500 pages) is also prompted by a similar intuition. But like the barbarism of the late Roman Empire in the West in the second and third century A.D., I take the view that a new religion is growing in our midst. Like Christianity which crept, half-hidden, along the foundations and against the background of an Augustan empire, the Baha’i Faith seems, thusfar, too insignificant to be noticed by history for it, too, is growing slowly, obscurely, insensibly in our modern and postmodern world. In his book James also offers a steady stream of advice on how to go about the business of self-education. I offer advice, for the most part indirectly, or such is my hope, for I am all too conscious of the limitations of direct advice-giving; I do not advise any must-reads or how-to's. There are, as in James’s work, many anecdotes. Like James in his Cultural Amnesia I launch a symphony of voices; I hope it is not a cacophony.
My life, like James's, has been richly social, but not in the world of celebrities and media. I have read a great deal, but nothing like the quantity that James has consumed. James says that most of his listening was to the authors behind the books he read; in my case, until I retired in 1999, most of my listening was to people in the raw: individuals, groups, communities. For a host of reasons--the expansion of universities, of suburbs and of telecommunications, to name three--the kind of face-to-face intellectual-artistic life that was exemplified in coteries in the past, and that flourished in various twentieth-century cities, notably Paris, before WW1, simply no longer exist--or so James sees it. I agree, but not all the way. I feel as if I’ve done an awful lot of face-to-face stuff in my life: in cities, towns, classrooms, lounge rooms, my own home, rental halls, inter alia.
James's answer to what he sees as a diminution of venues for intellectual-artistic activity, this bereavement, is the book itself--as is my own memoir, partly. Here in James's book is the café, the former place of the intellectual-artist; he has created it in his mind; it is a convocation of voices that respond to one another across the barriers of language, outlook, expressive form and, most of all, time.
Clive James has written other books and, initially, I was not sure just where on my website I would draw them to the attention of readers who come to my site. Some of his books are no longer commercially available. They are represented at the following link. His essay collections and the books of television criticism are, for me at least, of great interest. In the sub-section marked “Other Non-Fiction”, Fame in the 20th Century was written in one piece in the first place, and is reprinted that way at this link, but chapter by chapter, so that it, too, can be read in fragments. Against what is held to be the usual rule of the web, however, the fragments are rather substantial. The idea that the web is essentially for the reader with a short attention span has never appealed to me enough to finish reading it when it is expressed. James has put them at his website under journalism because he has come to see himself as a journalist. Here is a summary of his several books at: http://www.clivejames.com/books-out-of-print and at: http://www.clivejames.com/current-books
MY MORE JOURNALISTIC WRITING
Over the decades and beginning after I got my BA and B.Ed. degrees in 1966 & 1967, respectively, I left academic institutions of higher learning and their style of writing. I left the fields of post-secondary learning at universities from mid-1967 to mid-1973. I turned toward a more journalistic approach, to a plain speech and a style of writing that was not as esoteric as an MA thesis or a PhD dissertation. Direct observation and the necessity to entertain was absolutely crucial for James and for me. I would never have survived in classrooms had these qualities not surfaced insensibly over the first half-a-dozen years of my teaching experience from 1967 to 1973. When I did get near institutions of higher learning it was on the periphery, and only for brief periods like the summer course I took in Toronto with Ontario's ministry of education. The more esoteric and specialist forms of writing did not have a chance to bloom. In those years I was not trying to advance myself in the several academic ladders.
Nor was I in the mass media eye, as Clive James was with his immense success, I settled for a more modest achievement in the world of “the school” and “the college.” Like James, I wrote essays, reviews, sketches and squibs for students; I also wrote in longer and more conventionally prestigious forms, but always in styles that had been honed by the whetstone of conversation. But all this was without the accruing prestige that James accumulated in the print and electronic media.
Writing for the student & for the popular press, even at a much less successful & prestigious level of everyday journalism than James, demands both simplicity and compression, and compression, if it is of good quality, makes language glow, even if the glow is only mild & slightly warming. I felt, as the years went on, that some light was finally being emitted from the marks on the page that I was putting down even if I was the only one who saw it and a few coteries of the votaries in cyberspace to which I was trying to appeal, and, then, only for nanoseconds.
The stylistic models that James and I emulated were much different. However different, they each could "pour a whole view of life, a few cupfuls at a time, into the briefest of paragraphs." James highest hero, "the voice behind the book’s voices" and one of several exceptions to his rule of writing only about twentieth-century figures, was Tacitus. I was surprised at this in some ways, but not entirely so, for James is quintessentially a serious bloke with a patina of humour which he will never get rid of. It's part of his cultural schizophrenia.
It was Tacitus who wrote the sentence, says James, out of which his entire volume Cultural Amnesia grew: "They make a desert and they call it peace." James heard this line quoted as a young man and "saw straight away that a written sentence could sound like a spoken one, but have much more in it."
My Tacitus, was Edward Gibbon. I felt, therefore, that James and I were on a similar track. I've been reading Gibbon for decades. I would like to think that my memoirs are what James’ book Cultural Amnesia was to the reviewer in The Nation; namely, “less a collection of great figures than of great sentences.” But, alas and alack, I write in the minor leagues; not that I mind, for I love the art, the act itself, and I was never meant for the majors, not in baseball which I loved as an adolescent, nor in writing which I came to love by my late middle-age, the first years of my early retirement from a 50 year student-and-employment-life, 1949 to 1999.
MORE ON CLIVE JAMES
That same reviewer, William Deresiewicz, went on to say, “reading Cultural Amnesia feels like having a conversation with the most interesting person in the world: You're not saying much, but you just want to keep listening anyway.” Well, I’m not sure if I have had such a conversation in years as a talker or a listener expect in books. On the other hand, I sometimes feel as if I have had al too many such conversations of the deep and the meaningful. But as fas as print is concerned, James is, for me, one of my many, one of my crucial, mentors.
The reason James is such a good talker is that he's such a good listener- or so that reviewer in The Nation said in his fine review, a review on James's website along with a number of other statements of encomium and only a little opprobrium. James means it literally when he says that the book took forty years to write, because its quotations are the harvest of the notebooks he has kept for all that time, and the notebooks are the harvest of his insatiable reading.
The fifty years, from 1949 to 1999, of talking and listening tired me out, although the rigours of bipolar disorder and the medications I take for my several mental health issues as well as several other medical issues have also played their part in depleating my energy levels and my social enthusiasms. Gore Vidal once said listening was one of the most demanding arts. I did not find it so for decades in my several roles in classrooms, in other work-places and in a great variety of wider-community contexts. But I do now. In recent years I’ve gone on shutdown; I've dropped-out of the world of seemingly endless talking and listening.
More than sixty years of my note-taking, say, 1950 to 2014, has resulted in a small study filled with files that annoy my wife who has a penchant for the tidy and the clean, the orderly and the useful. It is a penchant I share with her. But I have a different modus operandi, modus vivendi. I like a tidy desk, but am not too concerned about the efflorescence of my files. Fifty-five years of reading and note-taking, 1950 to 2005, gave me an even greater appetite for print after I had retired from full-time, part-time and casual-work and all that talking and listening. In the last several years, 2006 to 2014, I have been able to satisfy my literary and my intellectual, my reading and research tastes to a much greater extent than I ever could during my: working and student, my employment and community, my family life and social life.
Ever since running into Tacitus, says James, he has been a connoisseur of aphorisms and aphorists--of writing that is both conversational and compressed and of the kinds of minds that produce it. It's no coincidence that he is also a connoisseur of music. "Echoes of a predecessor's rhythm, pace and melody are rarely accidental": That sentence contains four terms that sound like they refer to music, but it's about writing. Rhythm is central to James's understanding of style, and so are "echoes"--that is, memory. He is himself, at least for me, an incandescent and virtually habitual aphorist.
I, too, went down this road but not quite as passionately as James, for I was not in the media spotlight that he was, a spotlight where the aphorism is one of the kings of the sound-bite and the clever turns of phrase. I did collect quotations in my many notebooks, but clever turns of phrase and jokes always slightly eluded me when I went to translate them into verbal matter. As I approached my sixtieth year, I found there was just too much to copy into notebooks; there was too much that was useful. By then my computer directory began to come in handy.
The love of the beautifully turned phrase goes far deeper than mere appreciation. James knows this better than most. The identifiable tone of voice, a tone which is a synthesis of all the voices one has ever heard, is at the core of the term “voice.” A lot of things make up voice. The most individual style in the world is the product of a collective effort. In gathering the voices that inhabit our own, the echoes we hear in our head, are produced by the growth of our mind; it is the song of self, as Walt Whitman might have put it--and did. I have discussed this notion of the individual voice, its song, its life, in connection with Wordsworth’s poem The Prelude and my own poetry which is a sort of prelude two hundred years later. But that is in another essay.
To fully participate in community life in the sense that is at the heart of James's s work requires an exemplification of liberal values. We must engage, in James' s view--in the work, the community enterprize in our own individual way and with a broad liberalism, both are essential. We each can do some things that others do, that other community members do, but we must see our own work as a part of a larger enterprise. We must strive in the context of this larger, this non-utilitarian liberal enterprise and its myriad smaller components.
Being a part of the community, then, is not simply a matter of learning new skills, new attitudes and new values, but also of fielding new calls for identity construction. This understanding of identity suggests that people enact and negotiate identities in the world over time. For identity is dynamic and it is something that is presented and re-presented, constructed and reconstructed in interaction. And like the tension in violin strings which are the basis of musical harmony, life in community also possess a tension with which we must deal with in harmony. Of course, this can not always be done. James has been more successful than most. He produces little noise Often only noise. He has done a good deal of connecting. This is true when one writes, when one talks and when one lives and works in community, if one can bring humour to the table. Humour is a wonderful oil in this whole exercise. James knows this, again, for he has done it better than most writers.
The individual experience of power derives from belonging, but it also derives from exercising control over what we belong to, what we participate in, what we read, indeed, an entire panoply and pageantry of activity. Each individual is heterogeneously made up of various competing discourses, often conflicted and virtually always possessed of contradictory scripts. Our consciousness is anything but unified. In many ways wholeness or integration is not so much a goal as a battle, at least some kind of perpetual balancing act of dealing with unstable forces, forces which we must try to reconcile or they will tear at our psyches. These unstable forces may also cause us to withdraw and, like a planet slipping from orbit and following the dictates of its own centrifugal momentum, become ultimately so remote from the magnetic attraction of the sun that it flies irretrievably into remoteness. This can happen to both individuals and societies. Inner conflict is not so much a disorder as it is the first law of human psychic life and is part of that principle of polarity at the centre of life.
This Australian critic and raconteur, this retired journalist, Clive James made a pertinent point in this connection when he compered an ABC FM Radio program about Australian orchestras in concert. He said that large countries like Australia and the USA don't have identities. They are too diverse. I think the same is true about individuals. They are also diverse over a lifetime to have a single identity.
THE BAHA'I COMMUNITY: MY BOOKS AND JAMES'S
There is now a great wealth of literature available to the Baha’i community, both in-house literature and the burgeoning material now available in the marketplace. My book occupies a small place, possesses no particular authority and competes for a place, for space, with a print and electronic media industry of massive proportions. In order to survive and do well in most of the print and electronic media a writer must develop the ability to put things simply and effectively, in a manner that everyone can understand. Such a writer has maybe a minute and a half to two minutes if he is talking on the TV to explain a complex subject or a series of short verbal expositions if he is involved in an interview; even a book, if it is to find a large readership in the mass circulation market, must be as simple as possible.
Many academics and intellectuals are so steeped in academic jargon that they are unable to simplify their material. I hope my book is not an example of this academic problem, the problem of someone who could not pull off the simplification process. I’m afraid simplicity and brevity are not marks of my literary style. James's fat books, however liberal in philosophy, will not penetrate the minds of the new barbarians. James knows this. He has realistic expectations. His book will fail with that increasingly large crowd. But the crowd at this year's Melbourne Writers' Festival will devour his new book.
I knew of a senior academic who was asked to appear on a local TV station. She showed up with six or seven books and they had little pieces of paper stuck in the books for purposes of quotation. The whole interview was over in less than two minutes; she never read any of her quotations and she was frustrated that she just couldn’t make her points. She didn’t understand that if you’re going to play in the media ballpark, you have to play by their rules, not your own. I like to think that this book, this autobiography of mine, has allowed me to have my six books and their quotations and that the role of this book does not include a two minute TV summary or an interview of ten minutes on an arts program. On the other hand, I could probably write a ten second autobiographical-ad grab, summarize what I’m all about in one or two minutes and be interviewed for any appropriate length of time. It will probably never happen before I die. Perhaps there is hope in the posthumous literary world.
There are many different kinds of self-referential writing. I have incorporated some of them in what is for me a surprisingly large work invoking Whitman's "I am large, I contain multitudes,” as an appropriate presiding spirit for the genre. Whatever largeness I claim to possess, it is the same largeness we all possess in relation to ourselves. And some are larger than others. James is a big chap--in more ways than one. We all must live in our own skins for all our days and the sense of our largeness--or our smallness for that matter--is a result of our bodily manifestation, our physical proximity to self. In the multitude of methods and genres of studies of Baha’i history and experience, teachings and organization, autobiography is either tentatively acknowledged, invoked by negation or simply passed over in silence. It is one genre that is, for the most part, conspicuous by its absence from any bibliography. This has begun to change in the last decade or two. This piece of writing is part of that change.
11/8/07 to 30/6/'14.
I open this sub-section of my website on journalism with a quotation from Marcel Proust: “That abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don’t even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of cafe au lait.” — Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
Marcel Proust(1871-1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time; earlier translated as Remembrance of Things Past). It was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927. In that work "remembrance progresses from small to smallest details, from the smallest to the infinitesimal, while that which it encounters in these microcosms grows ever mightier." In my work, in this memoir, memory progresses from large to largest detail, from the largest to the infinite, while that which it encounters in this macrocosm grows even mightier. And there is some of Proust's style as well. There is also some of that intellectual liberty which Orwell says comprises "the right to report contemporary events truthfully, or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers."
Many books, of which Proust's is but one, have drawn on life-stories in order to describe what some sociologists call "the social construction of reality." This sociological term is used to argue that the personal/private zone is impacted upon and formed by social relations. To theorise from experience, as I have done in my memoir, it is difficult to insist on a separation between the public sphere and life in the more private realm where one thinks and acts, believes and feels. My own approach, my own way of integrating public and private spheres of life in my autobiography, has been to draw on interviews, letters, essays and poems, inter alia. In this way I have been able to investigate the daily relations of religion and belief and the dailiness of religious experience, mine and others in my community. I have placed these comments here under the sub-section of my website 'journalism' because this writing is a type of journalism in relation to self and society.
I have been interested in demonstrating, in particular, not only how my religious experience was lived, but also how it was seen and, more often, in my immediate social and political networks, how it was not seen. I have always liked Hannah Arendt's view of modern political thought; namely, that it was "the endless effort of human beings to make sense of what they experience, to get their minds round the things that confronted them, the activities they engaged in, and above all the events that happened among them." Arendt was an influential German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that "men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world". Arendt's work deals with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, authority, and totalitarianism. Her work is pre-eminently political thought, not in the sense of being the application of some partisan position to political material, but in the sense of representing the free play of an individual mind round politics, making sense of political events and placing them within an unfolding understanding of all that comes within the mind’s range.
Personalised embodied narratives, like my memoir, foreground the particularity of the everyday and the struggle, as Arendt describes it here, to make sense of experience and to engage in the particularities of life. More Baha’is have begun to write their storties, their personal histories, writing of their engagement with society, in recent decades, in the second century of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Faith(1921-2021). One of the main reasons was that there were more Baha'is. At the beginning of the first epoch in 1944, the first in the series of five that concern me in my memoir, there were some one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand members of the international Baha'i community. As I write these words in 2011 there are between 5 and 8 million adherents. Given that writing one's life narrative is not that common an experience, there are still not many in the last 7 decades who did write their stories. But there have always been a few throughout Bahá’í history who did right back to the 1840s.
I have identified a lack of what might be called a literary, an autobiographical particularism, in Bahá’í literature, a lack, a deficiency, I saw my project as addressing to some extent. I am not the first to identify this lack, a lack that was also present in the heroic age(1844-1921) and then in the first epoch of the Formative Age(1921-1944). There has been a significant increase in memoir and autobiographical writing by Baha'is in the epochs beginning in 1944 when I was born; there has also been a greater articulation of the life and community processes by which Baha’is came to understand the social forces that made them who they were. There would be much more done in memoir writing in the epochs ahead. Another epoch looms, such is my view, on the horizon in 2021. I will be 77 then and my guess is that another epoch will follow in 2044. If I live that long this story will be called Pioneering Over Six Epochs.
ANOTHER GREAT JOURNALIST
Michael Frayn would be exclusively celebrated as an inventive novelist, if he were not also celebrated as an inventive playwright. Also ranking as a provocative plain-language philosopher, he continually poses the question of where his creative identity is located. The answer is easy if you look far enough back. The multiple activities of his mature career are all anchored in the journalism he wrote when he left Cambridge and came to Fleet Street at the very beginning of the 1960s. Few feature columnists have had such a solid background in language. His natural capacities as a linguistic analyst in English weren’t hurt at all by his time as a Russian interpreter. The focal point of his journalism was his “Miscellany” column for The Guardian: a stream of comic invention unmatched since Beachcomber, whom he admired, and, later, selected and edited. Frayn’s own three main collections of columns were The Day of the Dog (1962), The Book of Fub (1963) and At Bay in Gear Street (1967). Frayn fans who own those volumes in paperback generally try to get hold of two copies of each, in case the first one gets read to pieces by borrowers. For some of his work go to:http://www.clivejames.com/michael-frayn
MARINA HYDE: ORIGINALITY
Marina Hyde is an Oxford graduate who now writes the kind of journalism that would have given her tutor a heart attack. She started her London career as a secretary on the Sun's show-business desk, and even after her transfer to the Guardian, where she currently writes three columns a week, she retained her detailed interest in the trivia of the celebrity culture. Her writings on politics show her seriousness and her writings on sport show her adventurous range, but her column "Lost in Showbiz", in my opinion, shows her at her most original. Very few writers who know that much about the fundamentally worthless are capable of being funny about it. She digs down fearlessly through the strata of the negligible and finds the underlying ephemerality. What makes this fantastic voyage worthwhile is her gift for conveying a moral view through the precision of her rhythmic prose, which depends on a complete control of syntax.
She has the knack, highly schooled in her case, of bringing everything in & making it fit the form: bric-a-brac castles. Admiring students should not imagine that they can do the same just by lightening up. It takes a feeling for the serious to treat what doesn't matter as if it mattered. The first seven links on the right lead to a string of pieces written in late 2005, when "Lost in Showbiz" found its unique and enviable tone. Further links to more recent pieces have since been added in response to sobbing cries of “More Marina!” from desperate fans. For a sample of her writing go to: http://www.clivejames.com/marina-hyde
ZOE WILLIAMS: JOURNALIST PAR EXCELLENCE
In the British press, the female columnist is no longer a rare species. Once it would have seemed unlikely that there could ever be more than half a dozen recognizable names in that role. Now it is a crowded field, and standing out from it is not easy. But one who does is Zoe Williams, not just for her sanity but for her wonderfully unencumbered style, alive with the rhythms of a wild conversation she is having with herself. So relaxed a precision doesn’t come along often. The Italians have a word for it — disinvoltura — but we, alas, don’t. Maybe we should just call it the Zoe effect. Equipped with this uncanny ability to reach out of the page and flick food crumbs off your lapels, she never writes a piece you can ignore. But as with anyone else in the must-read category who hits regular deadlines, she produces certain pieces that are even catchier than the rest, probably because they are written not just in reaction to the passing day, but because they draw on a long-cherished subject.
In 2002 Clive James informs us, in the Guardian magazine, her long feature article on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the best things about popular culture he had ever seen. By the time James reached the end — not wanting it to end, which is always an even better sign with journalism than it is with a book — James said that he knew it was a classic. James writes about the discipline of putting opinion and fact together so that one blends with the other without blurring its edges. James refers to what he calls her skateboarding syntax and impressionistic sentence structure which are held together by an infallible ear. To read Williams go to:http://www.clivejames.com/articles/zoe-williams/buffy