Monday, May 16, 2005

New debate over new journalism

The New York Times calls "The Chronicle of Higher Education" a "usually staid academic magazine." I call it a B2B publication that serves college teachers and administrators.
Writer Tom Wolfe is calling it all sorts of nasty things.
Take a look at this piece that tells the story of how the Chronicle found itself in the middle of an argument about the history of "new journalism."
A NOTE TO B2B JOURNALISTS: Please do not read this post or the Times article or any of the material mentioned therein as a call to practice "new journalism." First-person reporting can make for glorious writing. But let's be frank. We journalists are a self-absorbed lot. And putting ourselves in the story is almost always a mistake that leads to pretentious, unreadable prose. In the B2B world in particular, "new journalism" tends to lead to that total nightmare of writing:
the I-just-flew-in-from-the-tradeshow-in-Vegas-and-boy-are-my-arms tired Reporter's Notebook.
If you want to emulate someone, then read up on the literary journalists instead. Get a copy of John McPhee's "Oranges." No one has ever written anything more lovely about an industry. Make note of what makes McPhee's work so interesting: enormous amounts of facts and anecdotes. In other words, think of yourself as a reporter, not as a writer.

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