In case you didn’t already know, I am passionate about and completely in love with writing and media, and I hope to convince YOU, person who probably doesn’t really care about writing/media, why these things are important.
The Internet makes writing exciting and dynamic! Ideas can quickly spread and evolve, and more people than ever before can feed the information machine.
What was that?
“Writing and media are just fine without my input or attention,” you say? With so much being circulated via print publications and the Internet, I can understand why you find it difficult to imagine a dearth of information.
However, choose an issue that’s really important to you and ask yourself: how you would feel if everyone just stopped writing about it?
Or, better yet, how would you feel if all the good writers stopped writing about it?
What if you REALLY cared about blue-footed boobies and then, suddenly, all the good writers decided to stop writing about blue-footed boobies, leaving one amateur poet to publish a series of poems about these birds? Wouldn’t that embarrass you? Would you want someone with absolutely no talent to be the person writing about your favorite thing?
Essential writers, the writers who WOULD do blue-footed boobies justice, are losing jobs due to budget cuts. One of the most depressing and hard-hitting things I’ve read recently were the comments on a Gawker post about “Freelance writing’s unfortunate new model”, a Los Angeles Times piece about the freelance writer’s struggle to make a living. Gawker commenter CassandraSays writes:
Those media outlets then wonder why their sales are dropping. You know, now that there’s hardly any actual content in their publications. Why oh why is no one subscibing to their almost content-free newspaper that takes a week to cover even really big stories?
Writers are representatives and ambassadors.
Online, writers are leaders – they are best at articulating an original thought, and they move people to participate. Readers respond with comments like “Oh yeah, you’re right” or “I never thought of it that way” or “I totally disagree with you” – instantly. Many times, these readers did not previously care enough to have an opinion, but the writer is able to challenge them.
To respond to a printed piece, you would have to write a letter to the editor/author and snail mail it. Rarely, would you know that he or she received your letter, which would probably not be republished unless you were lucky or awesome. On the Internet, a commenting community is just as important as the author who publishes the original piece.
You should care because you can get involved. Even if you have no desire to start a blog, you can become part of the commenting community on a website that you enjoy and appreciate.
SO MANY people on the web write for free; as a writer, becoming discouraged on tough days is easy when you’re not making money. However, comments can keep a writer going. Given the anonymity and the vastness of the Internet, writers like to know that their work is being read.
Take a moment to think about your favorite websites. Do you even know about the people who contribute? Do you know the people who do the layout, the editing, and the programming?
Next time you read an article that you like, notice the byline. I am always interested to learn more about a writer when I read something I enjoy. These days, most journalists and authors have personal homepages where they showcase their writing samples. Take the time to get to know their writing style and where they’ve been published. You might even become a loyal fan!
Every time you whine about the length of an article, realize that the time it took you to read (or not read) it was probably just 10% of the time it took for the writer to craft the damn thing. Trust me, writers have better things to do than sit around and write 12-page articles. But a writer WILL write a 12-page article when he/she cares about the topic (and is most likely being compensated for writing about it).
Last week, I received news from editor-in-chief of The Silver Spring Penguin that she is moving out of town. Because this hyper-local, hyper-informative website was basically a one-woman show, The Penguin, which provided Silver Spring’s 75,000 + residents with news, restaurant reviews, an event calendar, updates from board meetings, and profiles of local business owners, is closing shop.
Commenter JD writes, “Your departure seriously leaves a massive hole in Silver Spring news.”
Not happy with the size of the Sunday Times? Well, the Times has cut writers and therefore content to save money, which means the paper is smaller and fewer people buy it. If no one is buying the paper, then the newspaper has to cut more writers because they are not making enough money to pay staff members. The paper becomes even thinner. The smaller the paper, the less advertising space.
Stop complaining about the death of print; if you want newspapers to stay alive, you’re going to have to buy them, regardless of whether or not you can find the news online or elsewhere! You, the consumer, who now appreciates writing and media (thanks to this post, of course), have power and the ability to influence.*
*Don’t get too cocky. You lack the media’s power, but your power makes an honorable mention.
(Photo by K. Kendall)