Confused About Journalism


Forgive me if I rant out of pure ignorance, but I came across an article on Jeff Vandermeer’s blog that has me a bit baffled. First, my assumption is that journalism, by and large, is about telling stories. Not fictional ones, but real ones in a way to convey information that paints, at least to some extent, a picture of what really happened. When journalists talk about literature, it tends to be a little different: usually you might consider them to be like semi-critics of the literary genre in the sense that they make insightful investigations into aspects of literature (even when they are idiotic investigations). So, when someone writes an article about some aspect of literature I expect to see not only some sort of presentation of the facts in a semi-story form, but some intelligent conversation on whatever it is the journalist is writing about.
But then I saw this article and I am completely and utterly confused. It’s about constructed languages within fiction (primarily SF and F). While I appreciate that the author (one Karen Sandstrom) has laid out the information very clearly, I find it baffling why this article fails to do anything remotely journalistic. It’s not attempting to paint a picture of any sort, even a boringly historical one, nor is it attempting to make any sort of attempt to engage the material behind simply pointing out what most of us probably know already (yes, we know that Tolkien wrote his own bloody languages for his books). All of us who have read Lewis Carol’s work are aware that he made up a lot of words, some of which are in common language. So instead of trying to give us an interesting article about the subject, Sandstrom has done what Wikipedia is incapable of doing: laid out the information in plain sight to be read like information tablets or little High School index cards.
I don’t get it. I have looked and reread the entire thing four times over in the last ten minutes trying to understand what it is Sandstrom is trying to do. I thought maybe I had missed a moment where it declared that her article is nothing more than a quick response to some other article, perhaps in the same vein as a Letter to the Editor. But I see no such signs. The article is pointless.
Is there something I’m missing? Has journalism changed so drastically? Or is this just one lame article that happens to be on an interesting subject, but fails to do anything interesting with it?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

2 thoughts on “Confused About Journalism

  1. I’m with you – I was actually guest blogging on Jeff’s blog at that time and included that link in my “Bookosphere” round-up. I, too, thought it was a bit obtuse, and included it in my round-up almost for that reason as much as any. It just seemed kind of curious, and I thought it would stir some debate among readers. But yeah, it doesn’t make much sense, huh? Wonder what the journalist was thinking?

  2. I actually really enjoy the link roundups you do. They are fantastic because it brings to light a lot of interesting articles and ideas.

    As for the article: I thought the information was great, but it just needed a point. The author could have touched on the history while presenting some sort of story, maybe an analysis of the history rather than a semi-timeline? It’s great info, but without any substance it just misses the mark.

    Thanks very much for the links and keep it up! I like debate. I may be arguing about a different article you posted about literary snobbishness (the article isn’t about that exactly, but the person who wrote the article fits the bill :P). Keep up the good work!

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