Sunday, October 09, 2011

Phil space

In Prospect, Philip Hensher reviews four recent collections of essays, and draws a distinction between writers who voice an opinion, and those who just write about themselves. Which is entirely sound, until we get to:
When a report on personal experience is not that well-written, not particularly unusual, and focused entirely on the state of the individual rather than the experience, we may conclude that the place for this sort of thing in the future is online, in an unpaid and largely unread blog.
Oh dear. I thought we’d dealt with this years ago. No longer is there an impermeable binary divide between mainstream media (well-paid, well-written, well-read, authoritative, influential) and blogging (amateur, sloppy, ignored, unreliable, impotent). Newspapers and magazines are shedding readers quarter by quarter, and as a result the amount of money available to pay writers is shrinking at a similar rate: Hensher writes for The Independent, so I rather suspect he knows all this only too well. Moreover, the notion that poorly-written, self-indulgent witterings about the banal minutiae of a writer’s personal life (occasionally leavened by a smattering of inane opinion unencumbered by any evidence of journalistic research) have no place in mainstream media would be a personal affront to any number of successful columnists, who appear to have based their entire careers on such a technique.

And of course this doesn’t just apply to print media. Howard Jacobson (another Independent hack, and the author of one of the collections that Hensher reviews) describes the existential crisis of a BBC radio producer in his most recent novel, The Finkler Question:
After more than a dozen years roaming the ghostly corridors of Broadcasting House in the dead of night, knowing that no one was listening to anything he produced – for who, at three o’clock in the morning, wanted to hear live poets discussing dead poets, who might just as well have been dead poets discussing live poets? – he resigned. ‘Would anyone notice if my programmes weren’t aired?’ he wrote in his letter of resignation. ‘Would anyone be aware of my absence if I just stopped turning up?’ Again he received no reply.

5 comments:

el hombre invisible said...

Spot on Tim. Every day I endure blogxistential (I made that word up, you know, and have copywrited it) angst regarding readership, along with nail-biting trauma over style, persona, content - oh woe is me. Then I think 'F*ck it!'

Martin Lower said...

Couldn't agree more. The so-called journalists who spout irritating drivel about their 'lives', have ruined the traditional media. This has even found it's way into my local paper. I think I preferred reading about jumble sales and WI meetings!

Rog said...

You think it's easy? I'm juggling busy lunches with sub-editors whilst the useless Simon is at home shagging the Vietnamese au-pair who should be bringing up baby Charlie and watching Strictly Rambo on Dave?
Polly Filler

Billy said...

I always preferred Glenda Slagg to Polly Filler.

Tim Footman said...

Good word, Hombre. I'm borrowing it.

I used to write up WI meetings, Martin. There is a dark art to it.

Rog, Billy: Shome mishtake?