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When Kilpatrick — for my money the best journalist/writer of the past half century — moved last August to the great city room in the sky, I was minded to contrast his art with the gaucheries of Krugman & Co. I noted that the felicities of a good English sentence — trimmed, smoothed, well-rounded — strike fewer and fewer journalists as essential to their trade: possibly because the purpose of journalism, often as not these days, is to argue readers into alignment with the day’s approved agenda. Lemme out of here, modern readers understandably holler.
A fair amount of pontificating has attended the trials of the print media, the silliest suggestion having come from those who want the government to subsidize print journalism to assure a continuous flood of stories such as the customers would seem to have rejected: stories, no doubt, of deep intensity and public urgency, guaranteed to glaze the eyes of all but the most earnest journalism PhDs. Among the fruitful suggestions for implementing such an agenda: taxing iPads so as to subsidize the pen-and-pad fraternity. Another: charging, by law, news aggregator websites (think the Drudge Report) for the use of dead-tree content. The Federal Trade Commission earlier this year actually held hearings on these and other lame-brain notions, with no one holding out much hope for government manipulation as the ultimate answer.
What we may have to do is go back where we came in — to an industry whose personnel actually liked and understand the customers. What an idea — understand your customers.
YET HOW WOULD IT BE if newspapers and magazines went back to rewarding literary merit as opposed to ideological commitment, especially the kind of commitment mainstream readers find alien to their own understandings of worth? What about hiring reporters notable for, as much as anything else, their avoidance of the Eastern universities that supply so many New York and Washington, D.C., journalists for the coverage of Big Stories that to many readers seem infinitesimally small? What about training writers once again in the composition of feature stories about life in its complexities and surprises? Even the New York Times has a few writers of this sort. Don’t tell me the job can’t be done.
Would such a strategy roll back the Internet tide and restore journalism? You know it wouldn’t and, indeed, couldn’t, so strong is that tide. The Internet — to give it a common personality — knows one thing the dead-tree journalists (to which fraternity I belonged most of my working life) can’t always get their arms around. It is that change is ceaseless; that nothing lasts; that adaptation to circumstances — just as the free market economists have always said — drives progress.
You know, though, Sidney Harman could really, honestly be onto something. Make the reading experience, again, exciting, enjoyable, fun (save, of course, on slow news days); make satisfied customers out of mere high-minded spectators. So moves that liberal bogey — the free marketplace — whose groans and cries and snarls and purrings never fail to provide counsel or warning.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?