Friday, January 4, 2013

Journalism is Not Narcissism

I old school.  To me, journalism is about others, not about yourself.  Plus I'm just not that damn interesting.

So this Gawker piece caught my eye.  The headline?  Journalism is Not Narcissism (in full disclosure, I got there via this blog, also worth a read).

I'm not going to repeat the arguments above.  Read the Gawker piece and some of the comments.  As a journalism professor who faces yet another semester come Monday, I've long seen this desire among students to write about themselves or significant others.  There's nothing wrong with that, and indeed a lot of great long-form narrative writing weaves the self throughout the story in a magical fashion.    New and emerging writers, unfortunately, tend to not have the skills to pull off the "I" story, to make it something other people want to read.

In part, many journalism students seem to fear putting themselves in challenging situations.  Understandable, but journalism is all about putting yourself in challenging situations and coming away with meaningful stories that not only are true, but also ring true to the reader (or viewer).

The personal essay can be damned revealing, and it's a vital part of most magazine writing classes. 

It's also a crutch. 

The challenge with journalism students?  Convincing them that other people are a hell of a lot more interesting than they are, and then getting them out the door to find those people and to tell those stories.

(fyi, I've been sick for a couple of weeks, still sick, so all typos above I blame on some crud that has invaded my system and refuses, despite all antibiotics and pills and potions and home remedies, to go the hell elsewhere)

1 comment:

Trevor Williams said...

Dr. Hollander - As one of your former students who has matured from my childish writing ways of years past, I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. I used to think writing about myself was freedom, but I quickly learned that without an audience, the writer is nothing. Words, like actions, are only as good as the behaviors and thoughts they impact, and that only happens when people engage with the content. You can yell all you want in solitary confinement, but you're not going to start a movement that way. Writing that engages also serves the reader in some way. Now that I've put aside my pride, I'm more interesting and everyone is better off, including me. Funny how that works.