Quote of the Day

"(Journalists), too, are made anxious and fearful by hard economic times and the prospect of wrenching change. YouTube, the medium that has transformed our culture and politics, didn’t exist four years ago. Four years from now, it’s entirely possible that some, even many, newspapers and magazines (...) won’t exist in their current form, if they exist at all. The Big Three network evening newscasts, and network news divisions as we now know them, may also be extinct by then

(...) Now that media are being transformed at a speed comparable to the ever-doubling power of microchips, cable’s ascendancy could also be as short-lived as, say, the reign of AOL.

The Web, in its infinite iterations, is eroding all 20th-century media."

NY Times, August 30, 2008

Frank's not the first to proclaim the end of the mainstream media. The ephemeral and cannibalistic nature of the internet is nothing new, either.

But it's interesting to consider modes of discourse while they are still evolving. Since there is such an oversupply of columns and commentary out there, most of it regurgitating scraps of other media coverage, it seems worthwhile to try to define what classic writing techniques still work or don't work.

Lately, I've been suffering from blog fatigue. Despite the fact that I still spend at least an hour reading or watching various media each day, sometimes the constant ricocheting of ill thought-out arguments feels like you're trapped in someone else's head when they're on acid. I had to agree with my workmate Niklas when he said the other day "All in all, it's this whole criticism of criticism of criticism thing in blog culture that drives me over the edge. "Everyone's a critic and most people are djs" as The Hold Steady sang a couple of years ago."

In the paradigm of food writing I guess this means that everyone's a pundit and most people are socially-aware adventurous home chefs. And it does start to get exhausting how everyone has to have a controversial opinion about everything. Pop will eat itself, and so will the need for bloggers to second-guess themselves on every teaspoonful of feel-good ethical food choices.

Although 'traditional' journalism still has a lot of power to convey a story with complex emotional narrative, it seems that when it comes to news, more and more it's only meta-journalism like the Daily Show that feels like it can be trusted, even though it, too, has an agenda.
Is it that the truth these days is too absurd to be anything more than comedy? Or is it that the classic journalistic forms (mostly TV) have become so formulaic and tailored to audiences, that only a new 'blog-like' formula/critical dissection of pre-existing narrative can be swallowed without gag reflex?
What does this mean for other types of writing and journalistic reportage?
Are our emotions dulled?
Are we thick, or too thin-skinned? Are we hooked on controversy, and sight-gags?

You may recall the recent thelastappetite.com mini-debate on whether readers are really interested in non-myopic food writing, beyond a 2-paragraph soundbite.

I would like to ask Gut Feelings members - what is it about the writers you enjoy, that makes their shit work? And how often (let's say, per week), do you read an article (especially a food article) that's longer than 600 words?


    one thing I think is often glaringly missing from food blogs (apart from the occasional beautifully photographed artisan in action) is comments by or about ordinary people.
    these days it's all celebrities, big issues and one-sided personal opinions.

    I enjoy:
    balanced arguments with a beginning, middle and end that don't end up swamped in thinly-disguised invective.

    writing with a nice rhythm/meter to it is a pleasure and can still be found, sometimes.

    stories that inject cheeky humour but don't rely only on farce and sarcasm.

    the occasional twist of phrase or poetic description. Today I enjoyed this, from 'A Breathless Labor Day':
    "For some New Yorkers — publishers and therapists — August is much as it used to be. For the rest of us, it is four working weeks diluted with iced tea and lemonade."

    a depth of knowledge that comes from years of commentating or participating in a subject... (this is rare these days)

    personal experiences at actual real-life interesting events, not just reading about them on other blogs.

    here is an excerpt from an article by Robert Sietsema that I think shows his story-telling ability and some of the writing values mentioned above:

    "As we entered Kitchen Stadium, a nearly impenetrable fog swirled around us—the kind that normally bedevils sailors. Our first thought: "My God, they've really burned something." The audience wrangler—a female dressed entirely in black, and whose black ponytail tumbled over a black fur collar, like a character out of de Sade—treated us like blind people, helping us over the snaking black cables that ran between pieces of equipment, then finally seating us at a bleacher in a dark corner. There was a similar bleacher on the other side of the room. Together, they held about 30 spectators."


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