It seems, to borrow a phrase from the current chancellor, that 2014 is indeed becoming a year of ‘hard truths’. Those of you who know my writing style will be happy I’m sure to agree with me when I say I’m hardly renowned for frugal language. Yet, being an economic author has perhaps been the central lesson of my first two days at the Press Association.
My initial thoughts are a mixture, I wonder if what I learn will bestow on me a brevity I could never exercise before. Or, will what I want to say be lost in an even keener search for balance between more profound argument and density of content.
Often the main things we’re told in favour of this linguistic parsimony is that our readers are lazier than ever, only care about what’s directly relevant to them, and don’t care in the slightest about our personal opinion. Perhaps so, but if one believes in the moral responsibility each of us can’t escape, and the hugely greater responsibility placed on those with the honour of the public ear, then they should also believe that journalists are obligated on a higher level than anybody to use their position for activism.
Activism in writing often means behaviour based on a belief in civic journalism and/or citizen journalism, giving people what they want to know but also striving to find what they need to know. Activist journalism is so powerful when successful because the public will never forget you, when what they didn’t care or know about before is now something they care about unapologetically you know you’ve made a real impact. Greenwald wasn’t answering a chorus of voices when he wrote the NSA articles, neither was Snowden replying to them when he released the original documents, but none would question the sense of these men or the journalists who allied with them.