How do we escape the banal pressures of this world? Keeping integrity and being a journalist (or pursuing many other professions, I chose journalism because it’s what I’m doing) seem to be mutually exclusive in this world. Why do we stand for it?
The general logic seems to go like this, so young and upcoming person, to get to a position where you might do something useful you first need to do something that is totally pointless, and another, and another… until you feel the crazy need to perpetuate this Sisyphean cycle of pointlessness.
As a writer the development of blogging has to be regarded as an exciting development simply because of the gradual capitulation of many publications to faff. That this faff is driven by a commercial agenda must be true because it is not the case that the readers stand anything to gain from it. When we buy something to read, our desire to consume things is generally latent in comparison to our desire to be provided with interesting objective information. Yet, even when we buy Time Out or some other listings magazine we want it to provide honest opinion.
Recently one of my journalism lecturers was explaining the way the advertising department and editorial in local papers combine in an effort to tie in the article with a commercial interest. Potential clients drive this trade to the extent a bad review of a restaurant will lead to a stern word from the advertising department. As a reader knowing this, would you want to take the advice of this magazine as to where to eat? Surely, you would begin to realise that the publication only ever writes good reviews. Also, if you ever went to a place that was genuinely bad on the recommendation of an article you would not trust the source again. Even the advertisers lose in the long term with such a policy, for the publication, having been dismissed as useless, will be consigned to the dustbin and any true opinion will be treated with scepticism.
The modern journalist keen to write about things in the world that actually matter, but determined to earn his shilling, is in a dilemma. Endless publications flourish perpetuating cynicism towards the trade, yet because they agree to act as the Pravda of certain companies, these bulldozers of the Amazon for Amazon provide the starving journo with a ready source of cash. On the other hand, the journo can launch out to limbo trying to carve out a precedent of value but with few means of publishing or being provided with payment. The latter has to be the noble option, yet the cycle of madness and its control over us can sometimes seem inevitable. To the writer sitting shivering in the garret the temptation of writing for the quick buck can be overwhelming in the desperation to survive and be read. He reaches for his quill agonized by the way his ideas only seem to have an outlet if they are used to sell something and gradually descends into a useless prose machine. Why do we let this continue? How do we change it?