Some good points about journalism

Kieren McCarthy’s written about the Net, Vista, journalism and remote controlled planes in a typically epic post – but almost in passing he nails something I think about a lot.

I know a fair amount about a comparatively tiny number of things. But thanks to being a journalist where I write about subjects publicly all the time, I have been forced to realise two things:

1) Most people reading your article know less than you do about it – which is why you are there, writing it in the first place
2) A certain number of people reading it will know far, far more than you do and will balance in their minds whether the educational aspect of the article, outweighs the countless errors contained within it

Deep down all writers know this, I suspect, but it’s all too easy to focus on just one of them. I tend to focus on 2), which is why when my stuff hits print or Web I don’t get excited: I’m just waiting for the people smarter than me to come a-criticising. I tend to forget about Kieren’s first point altogether.

I do think that, to survive as a writer with your sanity intact, you need to embrace both points. 1) without 2) makes you cocky and arrogant, but 2) without 1) makes you paranoid. Better to embrace both and let the first point fire your enthusiasm and the second point keep you from cockiness.

[Via Charles Arthur’s blog]

7 thoughts on “Some good points about journalism

  1. mupwangle says:

    Also remember that the people that know more than you are not necessarily any good at communicating this stuff to people who know less than they do and they may take what you say, correct any inaccuracies and repeat it in answer to the question “How was your day,dear?”

  2. Gary says:

    Heh. I used to work with someone like that.

    I do think the “people know more” thing is one of the best things about interactivity: rather than a piece being The Final Word on a subject, it’s more of a beginning – in an ideal world the people who know more than you will then come along and add their insight.

    Or call you a cock.

  3. Stephen says:

    Hmm. Isn’t this the same Kieren Mccarthy who accused Apple of a coverup regarding the bogus wifi vulnerability? And while the point about two types of people reading your articles is true (if a bit obvious: don’t they teach that in Journo 101?) it doesn’t excuse spelling and grammatical errors on the scale evident in the post. (Oh, it’s only a blog post, is it? No need to act professional then, I guess.)

    http://daringfireball.net/2006/09/mccarthy_still_a_jackass

  4. Alex says:

    Thanks for that, some good points there. I’m actually in high school right now and seriously considering journalism as a future career.

    At my recent careers evening at school I was told by some journalists to get into writing now, start writing for local papers etc. Firstly, though, I’m setting up WP and blogging.

    This is quite useful stuff to keep in mind.

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