Literature and news: dying, or regenerating?

Over at the Guardian and the Observer, the storm in a teacup on the culture blogs this week is whether or not fiction is dead. So what if the American novel is dead (as per US critic Lee Siegel) – most of us had pretty much stopped reading it anyway, given the supply of more interesting stuff to read. Did we actually want any more Mailers? So I guess I am ‘sort of’ with Robert McCrum on this one, although tbh it really is hard to take critics as seriously as they take themselves. Isn’t their primary function to dress up trends the public already takes for granted, wrap them in clever words and make them sound new?

Meanwhile, what critics at The Times make of all this is unclear to me, because since 1 July, The Times and The Sunday Times websites have been ‘available exclusively by subscription‘. This, surely, is either a newspaper dying or regenerating, and paid journos around the world are watching and waiting to find out which. If people are happy to pay to read news online, this will be a story with a happy ending for journos and their jobs. So, will free content get the boot? Or will punters vote to stay outside the pay wall?

Other option: we could see two models developing hand in hand, the peaceful coexistence of paid-for and free online content?


4 thoughts on “Literature and news: dying, or regenerating?

  1. I think it’s dreadful to expect people to give away their words for free. Would be all very well if we lived in medieval pre-capitalist times (my grasp of this is sketchy… all I mean is, whenever people worked communally e.g. building cathedrals together, over generations, with numerous dying in the process) – but we don’t, and we can’t live by words alone. People have to sell their words and I don’t know how journalism – decent journalism – can survive when it’s given freely away.


  2. Yes writers need to be paid 😉
    Fiction’s a bit of a niche product, so the idea of readers paying either writers or publishers for access to particular books remains pretty sound. With the large audiences who view newspapers online though, advertising revenue can (and in some cases, does) pay the paper’s writers without readers needing to pay. To me there’s a certain fairness in that when so much date sensitive information in a newspaper is geared at shifting products (homes, holidays, technology, books, films etc)


  3. The relationship between advertising and journalism shouldn’t go unexamined, surely… otherwise we get to the state where (this is already happening with little local papers who think, unwisely, that it’s the way to survive) the papers become mere mouthpieces for the advertisers. Propaganda in other words.
    People ought to pay for the news they want to read, so that they invest in the truth of it – does that make sense?
    I suppose I’m talking about the news side of things rather than the lifestyle product-shifting side.


  4. >I’m talking about the news side of things rather than the lifestyle product-shifting side.

    I don’t disagree with you but the reality is the two things have not been separate for a very long time. Go to the British Newspaper library and look up some big important date in the past: a war, a revolution. I guarantee you, even if the world was apparently coming to an end, the newspaper’s advertisers were still trying to shift tweed suits or sideboards or the latest gramophone to the readers of all this doom and gloom. sounds familiar, huh?


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