Journalism Has Genres Too

I reorganized my bookmarks today. Four years of promiscuous ctrl+d-ing has left me with an disheveled list of names and urls, most of which I seldom read anymore or don’t remember ever liking.

As I sorted them into categories, I found the experience a bit depressing. Every publication, website and blog is a source of information. When you’re deleting them, you’re essentially saying ‘I can’t be bothered to hear what they want to tell me.’

Even more depressing is confronting what you actually use each of your bookmarks for. The internet has an essentially unlimited capacity to tell you the same thing over and over. News blogs recapitulate the same information. Entertainment blogs ‘analyse’ the same press releases.

Looking at your history and curating a list of your favorite information sources is essentially a blueprint for the kind of person you are. Do you want a brief, snarky take on American politics? Feminist analysis of celebrity gossip? Gay album reviews?

Lately I’ve been feeling like unlimited reading options has turned literature into music. If it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, I want to listen to Low Roar or Portishead. If I’m about to go out dancing, I want to listen to Rye Rye or The Avalanches.

In the same way, early in the morning I want to read a website that gives me sober, straightforward news, something Reutersy. At work I want something I can read, digest and forget in about 15 minutes. On weeknights I want a site that tells me something I didn’t know before or shows me something I knew in a new way.

This concept isn’t anything new, obviously. The written word, from newspapers to magazines to novels, have always set a particular tone, and we always choose to read something that reflect ourselves back at us.

What I’ve been struck by lately, though, is that I also have moods for content. I want to read an article about how stupid libertarians are. Or I want a minority to tell me that they’re empowered. Or I want to read a blog where someone tells me that my favorite TV shows are their favorites too.

The internet allows us to cultivate not only the facts we get and the conclusions we draw, but our emotional reactions too. What ever I feel like feeling–confirmation, outrage, optimism, apocalypse–I can access it instantly.

In the end, I just sorted my favorites into ‘heavy’ and ‘light’. The sites contained in both of them give me information. But one group plays me something I haven’t heard before, and the other just repeats the same old melody.


Filed under America, Journalism, Personal, Serious

3 responses to “Journalism Has Genres Too

  1. Hear, hear! Your use of the words journalistic and turpitude into one phrase is startlingly accurate – way too much editorial recycling going on out there, not enough gutsy, well-researched original content. Thank you for that. I just bust out the Google reader today and yours is the first feed I subscribed to, so you know. Re news diet, mine is simple: BBC for a general overview of what is going on in the world at any time; The Guardian for in-depth, entertainment and features; CBC / Radio-Canada to spy on the neighbors, and Mother Jones for the best Mercan investigative journalism out there. Twitter hand feeds me other newsy crumbs throughout the day and I can often be found trawling geeky, techie sites as well as nerdy, thought-provoking blogs. Also, nice to meet you. You are absolutely right about Seattle superiority by the way. Absolutely.

  2. Chaz

    I used to read newspapers/magazines for “light” and proper books for “heavy” – nothing changes in that respect. The only real change is that in pre-internet days, it was possible to run out of “light”, whereas the internet has infinity+1 of it.

    I read your stuff through my RSS reader. My RSS feeds require pretty much no maintenance, and I always know when something interesting has been written by someone. RSS seems to be going out of fashion, but it really is the most efficient way to stream news and information.

  3. I’m guessing you’re quite the organized individual, right?
    “Order Above All”, correct?