A whole cottage industry has sprung up among journalists, reacting to the phenomenon of “fake” news. There’s no doubt this is a crucially important issue for our craft, and much needs to be discussed and done.
In the heat of that debate, though, we perhaps forget about readers, who are wondering if they will be the next person to share – inadvertently – some spurious bit of nonsense or propaganda. With that person in mind, I was interested to come across a list of WikiTribune’s preferred news sources.
WikiTribune, according to its Wikipedia entry, is a news website in which journalists with established backgrounds “research, syndicate and report on widely publicised news stories alongside volunteers who curate articles by proofreading, fact-checking, suggesting possible changes, and adding sources from other, usually long established outlets”.
Picture: Nben54, Wikimedia Commons
I’m not sure I care much for the “generation” way of looking at the world. Baby boomer, Millennial… who cares, we are all people really.
These sweeping generalisations are not often useful – but I think there might be an exception: the cohort of people apparently called “the Linkster generation” or Generation Z. (Linkster? Surely not. I will be sticking with Z.)
The London Independent reckons that Generation Z makes up about 18 percent of the world’s population. These people grew up with social media, smart phones and apps. “Not only this, but someone born in 2002 is just going to have turned 15-years-old meaning they are developing into adults surrounded by both the help, expertise and pressures of social media, the internet and advanced technology.” (Wikipedia gives a wider date range for the birth years of Gen Z: “demographers and researchers typically use the mid-1990s to early-2000s as starting birth years.”)
Bill Bryson and a beer, while waiting for a flight at the airport. Picture: Renee Moodie
I have been banging on about the importance of reading for the last two weeks, and thought it might be useful to list the books that I have been reading myself, over the last month or so. I try to read as much as possible, but sometimes life gets in the way.
Still, here’s what’s been keeping me busy:
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
Much-loved travel writer Bill Bryson revisits Great Britain, going to a variety of villages and cities as he reflects on how the nation has changed since he wrote Notes from a Small Island. He is funny as always, but older and crabbier. And some of the things he has to say about Britain made me feel a little sad.
Where did I lay my hands on it? My mother had it on six-week loan from her local library and loaned it to me because it was a Bryson that had somehow escaped my notice till now.
Last week, I suggested that being a reader is one of the keys to success as a journalist.
More specifically, I was thinking of how reading can help people required to write in languages other than their mother tongue.
Today, I thought it might be useful to make some suggestions about how to approach your reading adventure, and what to read (note: many of these recommendations have resonance in the South African market, but with some thought, similar sources can be found in other regions of the world).
When I was growing up, there were clear divisions in the world. In apartheid South Africa there was the big divide between black and white. On the white side of that line, though, there was another division – between English-speakers and Afrikaans-speakers. And one of the consequences of that division was inevitable, at least on my side of the fence: school children hated learning the “other” language. Afrikaans lessons were dreaded and derided, exams and tests were got through as best we could.
And then came Mrs Visser, the high school teacher who made Afrikaans cool. She was thin, edgy and glamorously dressed (and given to smoking in the corridor whenever she could). She was passionate about Afrikaans and an inspired teacher. Suddenly I was reading stormy Afrikaans romances, and ploughing my way through Raka (an epic poem by NP Van Wyk Louw), newly in love with a beautiful language.
And that reading paid off – I managed an A in Afrikaans in my matric exams.
I often think of Mrs Visser when I am training young journalists. She understood one of the fundamental building blocks of learning another language: that you have to read as much as you can in that language. That of course goes hand in hand with hearing that language, and immersing yourself in the spoken word.
Breakfast at your desk. Picture: StockSnap, Pixabay
I ate breakfast at my desk today, as I have done on most work days for the last 20 years or more.
This is because of the odd hours dictated by work in online news (and, where they still exist, by afternoon newspapers). And these odd hours are one of the things that most people don’t grasp about journalism… that in order for there to be something to read, someone has to have been up and about making that something to read.
Years ago, an acquaintance was expressing outrage that his morning newspaper was not going to be available on December 26. When I pointed out that for there to be a newspaper on December 26, people would have had to be working on December 25, he was genuinely taken aback. He had never thought about what it takes to make a newspaper.
Scrolling idly through Facebook (in a way in which I had sworn I would not do), an article about the best way to end off an email surfaced.
The article is long, and too detailed… so I will tell you the punchline: the recommendation is to end emails with the word “Best”, followed by your name. It is said to be one of “the safest possible choices, inoffensive, and almost universally appropriate.”
My own favourite – “Regards” – is either hateful, or nice but too formal, according to these experts.