One continent, multiple media battlefields.
A note: Newsfoo provided me with significant food for thought. I was warned this would happen. The post that sits below is one of many that have been rolling around in my head like little balls of mind-snus since the plane home in early December, but it’s only now I feel that this one has taken enough shape to share. Thanks are due to Matt Bernius for engaging generously with this post when it was still largely a dérive – I have, with his permission, left in some of his notes and reactions. In response to one section, Matt wrote: “following [Bruno] Latour, the argument should come as a byproduct of walking the path, versus an active shaping of the argument to fit the path.” That’s more or less how this post has come together, but I hope to pick up and refine some of the themes and ideas raised in it through more focused posts and conversations. Naturally all infelicities, inaccuracies and mysteries below are mine alone. And though I’m hoping to write more regularly, it will be more efficiently and concisely in the future…
At Newsfoo, a session on long-form journalism prompted me to think later that maybe we should have been talking instead about immersive journalism.
There was in the session an anxiety (my reading) that long-form journalism as an important way of capturing and understanding the world, is in danger – because it’s expensive, labour-intensive to produce, takes a long time to read, and takes up a lot of space in print and, in a different way, online. The discussion ranged over the changing nature of news content and changing settings and habits of news consumption – and the impact this has on how we apportion our attention. Within the ecosystem of online news, information and comment, I got the feeling that the lapidary status update (and in other settings the SMS) was being regarded as the increasingly sharp-elbowed atom/pixel of news and information, hustling other, more stately forms to the back of the queue. If attention is “shortening” – whether deterministically because of the volume, variety and velocity of the stream (I think of our period as that of Strom und Drang – the stress of the stream), or because the market wills it, or because because because because… – either way, this was Kryptonite to those seeking to do or foster long-form journalism. (It may be helpful, as a tech-free counterweight, to cite Julian Barratt, of The Mighty Boosh: “Having kids means relaxing is a different thing for me now. Today, finishing an article in a newspaper is like going to a rave.” He and I both have young twin boys.)