The combination of journalism and the humanities runs deep. At their core they represent similar ideals: deep and critical thinking, investigation, accountability.
In their piece How the Humanities and Journalism Can Save Each Other, David Perlmutter and David Dowling describe how journalism and the humanities have always helped each other. For example, the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was originally published in a newspaper. From there, it became an American classic. Journalism was essential for the book’s success because of the platform the newspaper provided for the novel, plus it was great content for the newspaper. Examples like Uncle Tom’s Cabin continue with other novels, short stories and poetry.
Perlmutter and Dowling then describe a disrupted 21st Century of journalism world, and one that’s so disjointed that it resembles press from the revolutionary period. To them, this combination of journalism and humanities is so historically valuable that maybe it can save journalism.
To me, though, this relationship seems completely unrealistic.
Obviously, we live in an entirely new media landscape. As Cronkite’s Tim McGuire describes, the old “push” model of newspapers and pamphlets has turned into a new “pull” model online. If anything, the relationship between journalism and humanities might revive newspapers, a now old and broken format for news; people will pull humanities content if they truly want it.
Good or bad, that’s the current state of journalism.
Really, the humanities had nothing to do with journalism in the first place. Yes, prose and poetry existed in newspapers, but that’s all they were: jammed amongst other reported content. Making the argument that there was a ‘true relationship’ between the two is tough to grasp. That being said, this concept would surely work great for the humanities, as it gives them another platform for publication. The true question, though, is whether or not journalism would be willing to carve a slice of the pie for another failing industry.
Finally, this choice doesn’t seem nearly drastic enough. The article states that “in a time of flux and uncertainty, bold experimentation is welcome and necessary.” There’s no doubting this point – every journalism scholar would agree. The issue, though, is whether or not printing a book or a series of poems in the press is enough to warrant the description ‘bold experimentation.’
It may be cynical, but my feelings are sincere: this step of rebirthing humanities and journalism seems out of touch. To say that yesterday’s successes could still be the savior of tomorrow is much too traditionalist. The current state of journalism is incomparable to the past – it’s simply comparing apples and oranges.
Journalism needs a step forward, not a step back.
2 Comments on “Humanities and Journalism Won’t Save Each Other”
First, I promise I didn’t read your post before I wrote mine. But we have very similar thoughts on this matter.
Yours are just more coherent right now then mine. So right on.
I was thinking about this a bit more and I think it could be more viable in smaller towns to do more publication arts and news because they probably wouldn’t have any competition. But in big cities there are lots of online specialty publications.
The humanities won’t save the industry of journalism, but I wouldn’t say they have nothing to offer it. For example, in-depth profile stories that are uplifting and focus on the person him/herself in sports journalism are very popular and well-read. People love documentaries and in-depth stories that delve into who sports stars really are. This is just one example and it’s a very different, modern form of the humanities, but it shows the humanities aren’t completely worthless in being paired with journalism.
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