It seems to me, one year on, that nothing is as simple as putting a word on paper, and nothing is quite as difficult as putting the word on paper. A few days ago, I was given two chances of a lifetime, although their paths are so divergent that I’m still confused as to which is the path less travelled.
Both are just as exclusive, and both are just as likely to be fascinating and provoking, albeit in different parts of society. It was a question of which one to take. It’s strange, but more often than not, nothing in the life of a journalist (a colleague prefers to call it “word processor”) is that active.
To report: to give an account, to relate, to repeat, to narrate. It’s the job of a voyeur, an observer who pretends to involve himself (I use the male pronoun because repeating three genders is tiresome) in a situation when what he really needs is to distance himself from the event, in order to report. What a reporter must do is to be calculative. Which story will catch the attention of his readers?
How best to skew it to provoke a reaction? Is his reader intelligent enough to sense the intentional arrogance in his words, so that he understands your satire, or will the reader simply assume high-handedness? It really is best the job of a robot, a word processor, because the perfect reporter must be completely of judgement.
A reporter’s task is to show, not to tell. Mimesis, not digesis. To tell would be insulting the perceptivity of his reader, in a sense, saying “You’re not clever enough to think for yourself. Let me do it for you.”
Yet, if anything, everyone wants to read an opinion, particularly an informed one. No one has time to think for himself. There is so much information, and no one person can receive all of it. Or process all of it. That’s the job of the reporter. The word processor, who does the thinking for the reader, so his informed opinion becomes his viewer’s opinion.
In truth, the publishing industry is much like any other industry, with one ultimate exception: we claim innocence, fairness in our work, the freedom to print what we feel should be spoken, without restriction or jurisdiction. But as the Wachowski Brothers put it so aptly, under the guise of a man in a Guy Fawkes mask, words have utmost power. It can inflame, like a pus-filled wound, yellow with the putrid smell of anger, or it can calm a raging mob. Today’s world has shown us that the true weapons of society today isn’t a nuclear weapon; it is a pen (preferably Mont Blanc).
It has been so since the invention of the print. People have come and gone, authors who preach, freedom fighters hoping to infuse the will to make a stand amongst the masses. Today, information flies across the world faster than Brian Rourke in his Superman uniform, with the power of a few billion tonnes of TNT.
It is the same with every other tool in the world. In all of mankind’s creations, nothing exists that is purely holistic. A tool is much like a coin: two faces to choose from. Good and evil exist only in the mind, as Blake tells us. He’s much closer to the reality of mankind, three hundred years ago, than some of us are today.
How, then, to remain an observer? How to dis-inter yourself from the world around you, and form an opinion that’s meant to be fair, when it is the world around you that you are writing about, and the world is unfair? We struggle on the see-saw of participation, to be the sounding board, yet we are always hoping to give the minority a voice.
Oscar Wilde once said that “journalism governs for ever and ever”. It’s not quite accurate. Words govern for ever and ever. Journalists are keepers of the word, shapers of what they mean, manipulators of the form and its function. It is the noise through which we interpret the world, the prism through which society is filtered.
It is our greatest sorrow, and the most wondrous hope. One year ago, I was struggling to learn the world of publishing and what it all stood for. One year later, I am struggling to find myself in the society of the world, and what it stands for.
Illustration by Jeffree Benet