Responding to Orwell: September 15

George: Seventy years from your epoch, the average person getting a gustatory rush from news and information enjoys considerably more than two newspapers. We now have RSS feeds propagating endless items of interest that stop us in our tracks, that we must learn to wrestle with and filter, and that make some of the distinctions between liberal, conservative, and centrist somewhat unnecessary. I say this is all fine, provided one steps away from the computer for long stretches and talks to souls in the waking world. This is not to suggest that pinpointing partisan journalism is impossible. (Christ, you should see FOX News, George. Winston Smith’s varicose ulcer would have expanded across his entire right leg, rather than keep its confinement to the ankle.) But I suspect this explains, on the writing front, why op-ed remains more in demand than good old-fashioned journalism, and why those who practice “journalism” often do so with a regrettable preference for decor over taut details. Since the tendentious timbre cannot be so easily cracked sometimes, and since the manner of viewing an article has transformed dramatically, it has come down to identifying these sorts of slipshod impulses within the writer himself. Accountability has dropped down to the byline level. A newspaper isn’t only as good as its last article. We expect even the best of newspapers to screw up. But the working journalist? Always judged from what she has just written. The free ride has ended. One would hope that today’s equivalent transfers of troops to Morocco would be more transparent because of these circumstances, but they won’t show coffins or carnage on television.

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