This is an essay I just finished for a college English class, any feedback is welcome. (The in-text citations and reference page are in APA format; I’m well aware there are likely errors in it, this is my first class using APA.)
Unoriginality in Modern Writing
During a time in which objective truth-seeking has morphed into your truth and my truth, original sentiment in writing seems to have all but vanished into the depths of a deep, dark pit labeled “inconvenience”. Like the guy on the street corner who goes ignored mostly, maybe to get a few pennies thrown his way when carrying the change is more inconvenient than tossing it out. Original writing is like the dinosaur of the arts; most of us believe it once existed, but we all know it doesn’t now. Much of the confirmation bias we see in writing today, particularly journalism, comes from a deeply flawed circulation of dramatic, emotional spewage masquerading as fact reporting. Writing is certainly an extension of reading, and what a writer reads will no doubt be utilized in some fashion or another, even if it’s merely a matter of shaping the writer’s pattern of thought and inclination to regard certain things as facts over others. But at this point the borrowing and patchwriting has gone way, way too far.
Journalistic integrity is something we hear about often, perhaps because people are so hungry for it in the lack of its presence. It’s fair to say that social media has aided in the attention-deficit/instant gratification feature of young minds, a crisis that’s turned into a big brick wall shielding society from the need to look further. Writers use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as mediums to immediately cement their every fleeting thought into the collective conversation and ultimately expand their readership, fortune, and fame. But at what cost does this abandonment of honesty and transparency come?
The New York Times: Bastion of Disgraceful “Journalism”
One of the most known journalism publications of this century is the New York Times. Since the mid-eighteenth century the NYT has been in publication, of course back then it was a newspaper “that would avoid sensationalism and report the news in a restrained and objective fashion.”, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica (Editors, 2019). The NYT has won more Pulitzer prizes than any other paper, and is known across the globe for its dedication to serving the public. Despite its history of renowned work, however, the prestigious organization that was once known for streamlining the facts and nothing but is now leading the American people blindfolded down a road to heavily biased partisanship and increasingly “progressive” social views.
Writer Ann Coulter (author of several NYT best sellers, ironically) wrote an article this year titled, “Why the New York Times is unreformable and must die” (Coulter, 2019). In the article she exposes the paper’s instinctual procedure of lying, saying, “They’re liars and ideologues, not reporters and editors.” The virtue of NYT writing is in fact so questionable that in 2017 the paper’s homepage editor, Des Shoe, admitted on camera that the paper has become severely partial and unbalanced in its reporting (pandering) to readers (Curl, 2017).
The New York Times has adopted the practice of insulting the intelligence of the people, and the biased majority of mass media (the “drive-by media” as author and radio host Rush Limbaugh often refers to it) has followed suit. It’s no longer enough to read one paper or watch one show and feel informed and confident about one’s views, interests, and consumerism; people now have to go back and forth deciphering where the true pieces of reality exist. They are few and far between, it seems.
A Eulogy for Original Writing
Acclaimed author Ray Bradbury encouraged writers to “read those authors who write the way you hope to write, those who think the way you would like to think. But also read those who do not think as you think or write as you want to write, and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for many years.” (Bradbury, 1950). Perhaps this is the component missing from today’s writing, the ability to tolerate and consider opposing and challenging notions to one’s own. In one of his classic novels, Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury made pertinent references to the misleading nature of the instant gratification that modern publishing caters to. He wrote, “Click, Pic, Look, Eye, Now, Flick, Here, There, Swift, Pace, Up, Down, In, Out, Why, How, Who, What, Where, Eh? Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline! Then, in mid-air, all vanishes! Whirl man’s mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!” Juicy headlines, it seems, are the new higher power. And worship we do.
Original thought may be absent from scholarly and academic writing, and journalism may be “dead” as so many bleakly assert, but as long as freedom of speech and expression remains intact there is still hope for the pursuit of truth. Sadly though it seems that organizations and young writers are willing as ever to trade in their journalistic integrity to profit off of outrage culture, often attempting to silence and censor those who challenge their oh-so intellectual asseverations. And the largely unsuspecting people are left mining for truth in an echo chamber.
Much if not most of modern philosophy and thought is borrowed from ancient Greek work and our current expressions in creative literature do very much mirror those of Renaissance writers. And there is nothing wrong with that. But it seems that at some point we got stuck in a loop and the unoriginality that used to be based on paying respect to past work has now become an echo chamber in which modern writers lazily reflect each other’s vague sentiments. And what a shame this is.
In the not so distant past, we saw classic works by Faulkner and Orwell come out during the same era. We saw Poe and London establishing the framework of Western literature. Now, we see carbon copies of pop culture garbage popping off the press every five minutes with photoshopped photos on the front covers of the celebrities who “wrote” them. Everyone gets a book now, and originality is not a contingency. Amy Schumer wants to talk about her vagina for three-hundred pages and slap a nude of her quarterback body on the front? No problem, let’s get her a publisher and a photoshoot! Lena Dunham wants to publish a riveting novel accounting her many lesbian acts with her sister? Someone give her a book deal, quick! Stephanie Clifford wants to detail the seedy sexscapades she took part in during her time as “Stormy Daniels”? Get Penguin House on the phone and let’s make a deal! A rotund French woman wants to write a steamy piece of erotica normalizing questionable fetishes? Well call it a world-wide best seller and make a film of it! After all, who needs bold originality when we’ve got fifty-thousand duplicated shades of grey?
Bradbury, R. (2017). Zen in the Art of Writing. ROSETTABOOKS, p. 41
Bradbury, R. (1950). Fahrenheit 451. NY, Simon and Schuster, p. 52
Coulter, A. (2019, August). Why the New York Times is unreformable and must die. Retrieved from https://www.mdjonline.com/opinion/ann-coulter-why-the-new-york- times-is-unreformable-and/article_defeea10-c481-11e9-9c18-37779a141203.html
Curl, J. (2017, October). New York Times editor admits paper is very, very (very) biased. Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/17/new-york-times- editor-admits-paper-is-very-very-ve/
Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, April). The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-New-York-Times