Books: There Is Hope Today - Even for Journalism

By McKEOWN, Ciaran | The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), July 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Books: There Is Hope Today - Even for Journalism


McKEOWN, Ciaran, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)


There is an insulting assumption abroad that you, the newspaper reader, cannot concentrate on anything for more than about 30 seconds, and that therefore you should be fed little bits and bites of well-designed junk.

This steady supply of informational Smarties, delivered in tabloid form, is believed to give you the nice feeling that you are in touch with what is going on in the world, and that, in a democracy, you might even have some say in all of that.

It is, of course, taken for granted that you are utterly incapable of any kind of serious or objective thought.

The eccentric few of you of who might actually have the inclination for such exercise, are assumed to be just as preoccupied with consuming as anybody else and therefore do not have the time or commitment to apply thought with any effect.

This fake elite is supplied with larger Smarties, delivered in the form of 'qualities'. But the syndrome is the same: you are still being fed junk.

The time was when journalism meant journals containing solid articles by people who had earned a reputation for authoritativeness.

Nowadays, (if one may caricature a little) by-lined empty-headed semi- literates whose raw spontaneous output often needs preliminary rendering into English, may quickly acquire celebrity status, founded on the presentation, rather than the content, of their work.

Every now and then, the design is changed, the photograph re-shaped, the by-line altered: new, sparkling, hard-hitting, etc - and still the same junk.

Interviews for would-be journalists today often focus more on whether the applicant can handle, say, Quark Xpress software, than whether they can read or write English.

Is this just the voice of pedantry? Was it not always thus? After all, similar anxieties were expressed about the arrival of the printing press as are aroused today by desk-top publishing systems.

To answer such questions with any authority unfortunately requires thought - and space. But it was precisely to fill the undoubted appetite for solid journalism that New Perspectives Quarterly was established in the United States.

NPQ provides considerable room for interviews with, or articles by, people who actually know what they are talking about. …

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