The Last Fifty Years in Five Paragraphs

Watergate made heroes out of Woodward and Bernstein. More young journalists wanted to be like them: Make someone resign, become rich and famous.

Henry Fairlie wrote a Washingtonian piece in 1984 about how journalists were getting rich. Get on television talk shows, get big checks by making speeches. Journalists increasingly could make big money and do just enough reporting to get by.

Oz Elliott, the former Newsweek editor, then teaching at the Columbia J School, told me that he wasn’t happy that journalists had discovered that selling attitude was a lot easier than reporting.

To be seen as successful on the Internet you have to build your brand. Journalists often were judged by how many followers on Twitter. That encouraged journalists to be more public, more clever, more opinionated.

For a writer to get the most attention, the more emotional and negative the better. In the landmark Daniel Kahneman book, Thinking: Fast and Slow, psychologist Paul Rozin pointed out that the negative trumps the positive in many ways. . . .A paper titled “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” summarized the evidence: “Bad emotions. . . have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good.”

Speak Your Mind