What makes written media more valuable than news from your phone?
It’s a well cited facet of twenty-first century life that print journalism and newspapers are struggling. The world is moving online and with “speed” and “convenience” being two watchwords of innovation, lengthy written articles are seeming increasingly archaic. They are appearing to be so archaic, in fact, I find myself asking, “does my writing actually make a difference?” or “who exactly am I writing for? Am I just writing for other writers or are other people with no connection to journalism finding any value in my writing?” Ultimately, I reach the most penultimate existential questions: “What is the meaning of this? Is there any?”
Personally, I read a lot of articles, but I am in the minority among my friends, even those who are at university. I find the act of reading articles relaxing and interesting. I think that the act of writing, especially writing an article that contains your ideas and opinions has an innate worth and by extension meaning. Yet, my personal preferences alone isn’t enough to sway someone who doesn’t read articles and favours other forms of media for information.
Written articles are useful because they inform you and present you with challenging ideas that make you think, but there is something deeper and more fundamentally valuable about them. Arguably, they are an impression of someone's person and character - they are a snapshot of another individual's persona. Written journalism can encapsulate a qualitative form of connection better than other mediums. It is a form of expressive art and art itself has meaning.
"Written articles are an impression of someone's person and character - they are a snapshot of another individual's persona."
Even at a fundamental aesthetic level, a written article provides an insight into someone else's minds that few other mediums can match. A seminal article that is either well written or constructed can, at its most potent, influence the actions of another person. Not through force or through negative coercion but by exposure to the ideas, opinions and character of the author. Articles are fractions of the person that writes them. Like a message in a bottle, they possess a timeless quality. Unlike journalists, who all unfortunately pass away, an article has a chance at immortality that its author does not. Isn’t this valuable? Isn’t the act of writing an article planting a tree you will not sit under? Isn’t it the case that when people write articles they have no real idea of what the effects of their writing will actually be?
Moreover, news is most effective when it is human. News about issues facing a society, whether it be climate change, poverty or political upheaval, are most impactful when they are linked to the harm they are causing individuals, and a journalistic article is the best place to capture this suffering. A scientific study could easily provide quantitative data about the effects of climate change, but stating that “20,000 people in x province could be displaced” is less effective in spurring action than giving the names of some of these people. Articles make people more than just figures on a page - they become what they always were, human beings with lives. Individuals who have triumphs and struggles. It is this qualitative aspect that journalism can best capture and it's something that you can only uniquely experience if you engage with quality written journalism.
It would be impractical to have an in depth conversation with every stranger you pass on the street, but quality written journalism can allow us to see into the minds of strangers we would otherwise not get the chance to meet. Written media allows writers to meaningfully engage with hundreds of people without the dispassionate blue light medium of computers. I think that this is something truly valuable.
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