Thursday, October 22, 2009
Okay, okay, here's a blog post. I had lunch with my new friend Robert Rowland Smith yesterday. It was all perfectly postmodern, aided by the fact that we were, for most of the time, the only two people in the upstairs restaurant at the Groucho. All the 'specials' were just for us. Anyway, Robert was on Today this morning talking to the increasingly postmodern John Humphrys. (I'm worried about this word, postmodern. I'm reading Naomi Klein and she uses it to describe the neolibs and necocons. I can see what she means, but surely it fits more comfortably with anti-ideologues like me and Robert. Or perhaps not. Being postmodern, I don't know anything.) Judging by his blog post, Robert wasn't entirely happy with the way the interview went. He says, in response, '... what we need, in a world of increasingly narrow thinking styles, is to keep our minds open not just to new ideas, but new ways of knowing in general.' Having read that I came across this from Malcolm Gladwell - 'Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school. If I was studying today I would go get a master's in statistics, and maybe do a bunch of accounting courses and then write from that perspective. I think that's the way to survive. The role of the generalist is diminishing. Journalism has to get smarter.' Well, I agree with Robert (he was a Prize Fellow at All Soul's so disagreeing with him takes preparation) and I don't agree with Gladwell, though if it's just a question of survival and making loads of wonga, then I guess Malc knows a thing or two. Robert's for open-minded generalists, Malc's for specialists. Being a generalist myself I don't doubt that our role is diminishing, but I don't get the assumption that being smarter means studying statistics, accounting, whatever. That, in my book, sounds dumber. In a sense, the whole point of being a journalist lies in not being a specialist and the whole point of our contemporary predicament is that we are surrounded by specialists - pundits - who, as we know, are almost always wrong about everything. Generalists may not get things exactly right but they seldom gets things exactly wrong. Anyway, I just thought I'd say that because people have been moaning that I haven't been posting and now I am.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 3:17 pm