Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ask a fictional journalist

Let minor characters from Victorian and Edwardian novels guide you through the bleeding-edge world of new media. A new series! One that may have more than one part! Interviews are conducted on a Wired speak to Rockefeller basis, not a Zembla speak to Henry James one: that is, I am decontextualising quotes, not attempting to use my imagination. Opinions may be selected for resemblence either to conventional wisdom or actual wisdom, cuts may be concealed without remorse and quality of transcription may, as ever, be crap.

This week's interviewee is Mr. John Rorrison, the sole Fleet Street contact of the hero of J.M. Barrie's When a Man's Single. Rorrison is certainly probably possibly "practically editing a great London newspaper". He explains How to succeed in blogging.

Rorrison, I've got this great new political blog. Will you link to it?

You beginners seem to be able to write nothing but your views on politics, and your reflections on art, and your theories of life, which you sometimes think original. Readers don't want it.

I know what this is about. You only link to your powerful mates, right?

Don't believe what one reads. Men fail to get a footing on the press because -- well, as a rule, because they are stupid.

All right, all right. So there are too many of us trying politics.

Yes, and each thinks himself as original as he is profound, though they only have to meet to discover that they repeat each other. The pity of it is that all of them could get on to some extent if they would send in what is wanted.

And what's wanted?

They should write of the things they have seen... readers have an insatiable appetite for knowing how that part of the world lives with which they are not familiar. They want to know how the Norwegians cook their dinners and build their houses and ask each other in marriage.

But I'm in Aberdeen. I'm hardly ever anywhere exotic.

Neither was Shakespeare. There are thousands of articles in Scotland yet. You must know a good deal about the Scottish weavers -- well, there are articles in them. Describe the daily life of a gillie: 'The Gillie at Home' is a promising title.

But must have done all the big topics by now.

Of course they have, but do them in your own way... new publics are always springing up.

So I'm not to write about politics at all?

Write about politics if you will, but don't merely say what you yourself think; rather tell, for instance, what is the political situation in the country parts known to you. That should be more interesting and valuable than your political views.

And what if I don't want to write all this personal bollocks?

If you have the journalistic faculty, you will always be on the look-out for possible articles. The man on this stair would have had an article out of you before he had talked with you as long as I have done. Once I challenged him to write an article on a straw that was sticking out of a sill of my window, and it was one of the most interesting things he ever did. Then there was the box of odds and ends that he promised to store for me when I changed my rooms. He sold the lot to a hawker for a pair of flower-pots, and wrote an article on the transaction. Subsequently he had another article on the flower-pots; and when I appeared to claim my belongings he had a third out of that.

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