Monday, February 4, 2008

Wall Street Journal vs. Salon

Camille Paglia makes some interesting observations in her piece "Dispatches From the New Frontier: Writing for the Internet." She notes that internet writing is more visual than verbal. I find this completely untrue. Certainly the visual style of the page and text are important when I determine the value of a web page. However, nothing to me is more important than the actual writing. I don't really case if the author actively chooses "vocabulary that looks interesting on the page ... juxtaposing blunt Anglo-Saxon nouns and high actions verbs with polysyllabic Greco-Roman abstractions" (pg. 271). I mean honestly, what does that even mean? I want the text I read to have substance and value, not to "look cool."

Paglia also notes how her writing for the Wall Street Journal differs from her own writings for Slate. I agree that samples from both will differ greatly in style and tone, but I don't think its the medium that determines these differences. I believe its the audience. The people reading the Wall Street Journal want a voice that is "somber" and "organized." If I'm looking for a sound business advice I really wouldn't want to read a report that read like most blogs on the internet. The opposite is also true, if I was looking for an article about the most recent episode of Lost, I would prefer if it didn't contain words I'd need to look up in a dictionary.

I do think Paglia is spot on with her analysis of the Princess Diana tragedy. Old media is simply unable to compete with the lightning fast ability of the internet to respond to current events. I recall hearing stories of most Londoners getting their information from Wikipedia after the 7/7 bombings. The information monopoly that newspapers and book publishers held is being subverted by those with no want of money or fame.

3 comments:

Brian McNamara said...

I had the exact same response to that quote from Pagila's essay. It makes me wonder if every page should be written in Lorem Ipsum, so it that looks interesting.

It also reminded me of that line from Hamlet, "Word, words, words."

Ted Baker said...

Thanks for the comment Brian.

On a related note, I have Salon on my RSS feed, but I only ever read the headlines. I found they're usually the only part worth reading,

Lance Strate said...

Of course content is important, but no matter what you do, you have to make decisions about how to present that content, and that's where the bias of the medium comes in. A message reads different if it is read from a handwritten note or printed in a book. Layout was generally not a consideration until the printing press, and really didn't become a major issue until we starting printing newspapers and magazines. And reading off of a screen is different from reading off of a page, especially with an itchy finger on the mouse. It's useful to think about how different words look on the screen, about what is more or less legible and attractive, about reader's patience and attention spans online. Especially if you are trying to reach the as many people as possible.