Here’s a shocker. Bloggers are pissed that paid writers look down their noses at hobby writers. A posting titled “The elite just can’t get used to democratic media,” found on Unmediated.org, that captures the outrage of Dan Gillmor, Terry Heaton and J.D. Lasica, and tosses a sneer at cyber-elitist Andrew Keen. The bloggers focused their ire on a piece titled “Not everybody’s a critic” that Time Magazine critic Richard Schickel wrote as an LA Times op-ed. Schickel says reviewers provides context in addition to a thumbs-up or down rating, and writes:
“we have to find in the work of reviewers something more than idle opinion-mongering. We need to see something other than flash, egotism and self-importance. We need to see their credentials. And they need to prove, not merely assert, their right to an opinion.”
I do so love this argument. At least for the moment when I have a foot in both the paid and unpaid writer’s camp. Schickel expresses a valid point but not well. There are people who know more than others and trained reviewers may be among these cognoscenti.
But if the audience does not perceive the difference between the trained and untrained, does the training matter? Not in a market economy. Not in a flat world. Not in a world of anybody media. Is this a good or bad thing? We’ll see.
There are brilliant writers who come from some professional realm other than writing and discover a voice and connect with readers (substitute viewers for the new video literates). If you are interested in medicine or science, for instance, let me point to the works of author Lewis Thomas (his Wikipedia profile) a medical doctor and muckety-muck in his field — and four times the writer I’ll ever be. I keep his books on my shelf and plucked a line out of one essay on “Computers” from his 1974 National Book Award winning collection titled: Lives of a Cell.
“No one has yet programmed a computer to be of two minds about a hard problem, or to burst out laughing, but that may come. Sooner or later there will be real human hardware, great whirring, clicking cabinets intelligent enough to read magazines and vote, able to think rings around the rest of us.”
If we ignore the whirling and clicking, Lewis speaks the language of Singularity author and technologist Ray Kurzweil — and succinctly, elegantly. Was Lewis’s credential his M.D. or the prose itself?