11.24.2008

Jarvis sums it all up

Jeff Jarvis did something today that would be instructive for anyone pushing a particular point of view or who has written extensively on a given subject: He summed it all up.

In a post today on his Buzz Machine blog, he responds to questions from readers who were drawn to a fray between Jarvis and Slate writer Ron Rosenbaum over what Rosenbaum saw as Jarvis' gloating over the death of print journalism. Rosenbaum misrepresented Jarvis' POV, but Jarvis did himself no favors with a rather childish response. So, today's summary was a nice step back. Jarvis has been writing about the shift of journalism for a long time, so it was instructive to read his thoughts distilled in one post.

It put me in the mind of two of the most recent posts I've written here: Friday's reboot and one from a couple of years ago just before taking a long layoff. There I wrote about my efforts to wrap my arms around a unifying theory that could explain all of the things I was thinking. Friday I wrote that I still think, two years later, that those ideas are still valid, and that events over the past two years have only solidified that viewpoint.

Forcing yourself to summarize your position can be a positive thing. I coach writers to do the same thing. Summarize your story in a headline and a subhead. If you can't do it, you probably don't have a focus yet. And if your headline doesn't accurately reflect what a reader finds when they get to the story, then you probably think you're writing about something you're not.

Jarvis clearly knows where he stands, and this post is going to be referred to for a long time to come. Is he right? Not entirely, if I'm any judge. But it's compelling, well thought out and sure to spark discussion, and there is a lot of value in that no matter the accuracy of the prognostications.

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