Monday, 30 March 2009

Journalism versus literature

Nick Cohen wrote about contemporary shifts in journalism in yesterday's Observer. Trenchantly and memorably put, as always:

Professional journalists in the age of the internet look as doomed as blacksmiths in the age the combustion engine. Local newspapers are disappearing. National newspapers and commercial TV stations are seeing the web take their advertisers.

Even the gloomiest forecasters expect there will still be a few reporters around in 2025, but as with blacksmiths, we will be curiosities.

There is no point arguing against the inevitable and many optimists believe that the destruction of the old order should be welcomed. In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky celebrates the switch to a democratic world where publishing costs next to nothing and anyone with access to a computer can write for an audience which in theory extends to everyone with a computer on the planet.

These changes have been widely discussed, and although I think the fabulously-named Shirky is simplistic in his enthusiasm, the question that came to my mind when I read this is: if journalism is being turned upside down and inside out by digitization, why not literature?

For me this has something to do with the characteristics of the digimodernist text: favouring onwardness, haphazardness, evanescence and fluid-boundedness, it plays into the hands of the nature of journalism. Literature, however, is stuck with the traditional form of textuality, finished, set, frozen in its scope and extent. Consequently, there are no digimodernist novels and poems (yet).

As for "feet of" Clay Shirky, he needs to consider what will happen to the prestige that historically has attached to "publication" when everyone can publish, and when text distributed to the entire planet to read becomes as ignorant, fanatical, biased, unreliable, and even loathsome as so much UGC is. That prestige will go; or, more probably, things will restructure in ways we can't yet see.


  1. TEXTS should be anything but prestigious. Internet should be no luxury. Knowledge should be easily-accessible.

    As for the sad journalists migrating on-line, they should be somehow part of this soft liberation movement. I still cannot think of how it can be done.

    Keep on posting! Very interesting reading.

  2. I love the literature because i think reflects many aspects of our lives. But i love most the simplicity with witch things are explained is what catch my attention. The literature for me is very impressive like the effect what i feel when i buy viagra