Monday, 31 January 2011

You have to be read

Does writing a science blog that nobody reads make me a real journalist? No, says Tim Radford, "Former Guardian science editor, letters editor, arts editor and literary editor"*. Why not?
Journalists write to support democracy, sustain truth, salute justice, justify expenses, see the world and make a living, but to satisfactorily do any of these things you have to have readers. Fairness and accuracy are of course profoundly important. Without them, you aren't in journalism proper: you are playing some other game. But above all, you have to be read, or you aren't in journalism at all.
Dammit! I'd like to be thought of as a journalist, of sorts, sort of. But the words "you have to be read" have haunted me since I read them.

I have to be read. I want to be read. I need to be read. The question is, how can I be read? I have a theory that will probably not pan out: Write it and they will come. If I produce good content, people will find the blog and link to it, and others will find it, and the cycle will continue. Is that realistic? What I don't want to do is spend my days pimping my blog wherever I can. That is not my way. I am, therefore, probably doomed from the start.

Still, stick to the plan; produce good content. Even though he has sucked my will to live with that one aweful phrase, Radford makes some good points in his 25 commandments for journalists. And, as he admits, "I realised that when stories that I had tried to write turned out wrong, it was because I'd broken one of my own rules." For me, the one that says it all is number 6
And here is another thing to remember every time you sit down at the keyboard: a little sign that says "Nobody has to read this crap."
Touché. A second article came to my attention too, this one by novelist Adam Haslett, called "The art of good writing", which is not really a review of the book "How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One" by Stanley Fish. In an article about the perfect sentence, the one that stood out for me was the following:
The writing of complete sentences for aural pleasure as well as news is going the way of the playing of musical instruments – it’s becoming a speciality rather than a means most people have to a little amateur, unselfconscious enjoyment.
Trying. Hard. Not. To. Make. Joke. About. Aural. Pleasure.

This, then, is my quest. To try and write interesting articles that are a pleasure to read, which are then read. In short, I want to aurally pleasure you.

Thanks to Nick Miller** for the links

*Which I suspect qualifies him as a real journalist.
**Also a real journalist.

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