One of my favorite daily activities is to read the newspaper. Actually, to read anywhere from three to five of them. It’s the perfect activity on my train into the city. It’s great for bathroom breaks. It can even fill in as a companion while I grab a bite to eat. I realize that the core of information that circulates out there comes from sources such as newspapers and therefore I want and need to be in the know. But I find that it’s not just about being aware of who is at war, who was murdered, or how Wall Street is doing, but the practice of reading the newspaper also stimulates me in a unique way. The newspaper reflects a slice of the world at a moment in time, and its stories take the temperature of the public mood.
Editorials and letters–to-the-editor give you insight on what people feel and think. Feature articles provide different vantage points on stories about lifestyles and culture. Sports provides us with a lifetime of metaphors and lessons about competing, winning, and improving There’s also the standard photos that belong more in Maxim, such as Page Six of the New York Post.
Yes, the newspaper, whether in paper or digital form (I prefer paper), is not only a means to learn what’s going on in the world, but it’s a great lab for writers looking to get ideas for their books. Many authors write, based in part, on what’s reported in the newspaper. So if you want to know what tomorrow’s novel holds, read today’s paper.
I realize that there should be an asterisk to what I’m saying here. I’m 49 and grew up with the newspaper as being the revered source of journalism. Even as TV news grew in popularity and stature, print journalism was seen as the true practice of news reporting. But now the fourth estate has a cousin – social media – which blends all media – print, radio, television, digital – combining professional journalism with amateur media sleuths. We are left with more information than ever – from more untrustworthy, unfiltered, untrained sources than ever before.
It’s almost as if we don’t care what’s true anymore. If it sounds believable, it entertains us. We already blur fiction with truth when we watch “reality” shows or historical fiction. Over time we forget what is historically correct and mix it with fantasy, doubt, a faulty memory, and an incomplete awareness of the facts. This is now the environment that authors write under. This is the world that influences, informs and impacts the author who then influences, informs, and impacts his or her readers.
Considering so many authors who write do so under psychological challenges – from life, medications, or addictions – you wonder if all authors have a real handle on life. Then you throw in the fact that these writers chomp on a steady diet of crappy TV, social media half-truths and photoshopped lives, and a news media that’s short-staffed, undertrained, and filled more with opinions than facts, and you realize that the modern writer struggles to convey a truth that even he or she is uncertain – if not unaware – of.
Our nation is consumed by entertainment to the point it influences politics and any attempt at a dialogue of real issues. We come to understand politics better by viewing an episode of Veep than of a Fox presidential debate. No wonder why so many people feel disenfranchised, that it doesn’t matter who becomes president.
But writers can’t give up – or let others give up. They must find a way to see through the clutter, lies, distortions, missing facts, bias, incompetence and bullshit of both established news media and social media. It’s a big task and I’m not sure how many serious writers can meet the challenges of today’s media landscape.
This isn’t a plea to retain some fashion that has seen its day pass or to ask for us to reject a modern technological device. This is a call to writers to wake up out of a haze, to open their eyes to the corrupted, convoluted, and disrupted chain of information that presents itself today. Do original research and see beyond unorthodox online surveys or celebrity tweets. Read more than just a blog and go beyond your self-selected Facebook feed. Challenge, question, and be suspicious of every bit of information crossing your path.
There are powerful forces who want you in the dark. The government wants you neutered. Corporations just want you to buy their products and use their services. The media wants to sell advertising. We know all of that – and it’s more true than ever. But now you have a massive onslaught of content, generated by entertainment providers and individuals from around the globe. We have a huge exchange of unsubstantiated information coming from uncredentialed sources. The disinformation has seeped into every aspect of our uninformed lives.
It’s up to you, author, to be better than the environment from which you spring. I’m asking you to overcome a massive deficiency, a deficit unrivaled in modern history. It used to be that writers were informed and they educated the masses. Now the masses disinform the writers and they, in turn, are way off course in their path to uncover and share the truth.
It’s frustrating to see, but one has to have hope. If the world is to find its way back to reality it will start when writers come back to finding the elusive truth and then presenting it to us in digestible forms. I hope it’s not too late.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016
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