HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 18, 2013, 3:02 p.m.

From Nieman Reports: Maria Popova on the critic as celebrator

“But in conceiving of criticism as a value system for what is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ worthy or unworthy, there is another, implicit shape ‘criticism’ can take — a celebration of the good by systematic omission of the bad.”
Editor’s note: Our colleagues at our sister publication Nieman Reports are out with their new issue, and there’s a lot of great stuff in there for any journalist to check out. Over the next few days, we’ll share excerpts from a few of the stories that we think would be of most interest to Nieman Lab readers. Be sure to check out the entire issue.

Here, Maria Popova tries to define one path for criticism: “I write about books, but I don’t write reviews. I write recommendations, based on my own taste.”

nieman-reports-winter-2013“Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol,” Susan Sontag wrote in her diary in 1964. “In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning,” George Orwell cautioned in “Politics and the English Language.” Zadie Smith lamented “the essential hubris of criticism,” noting, “When I write criticism I’m in such a protected position: Here are my arguments…here my rhetorical flourish. One feels very pleased with oneself.”

Bedeviled by these pitfalls as traditional criticism might be — an echo chamber of ideas, vacant verbosity, protected preciousness — online criticism has arguably only exacerbated the issue.

But in conceiving of criticism as a value system for what is “good” or “bad,” worthy or unworthy, there is another, implicit shape “criticism” can take — a celebration of the good by systematic omission of the bad. To put in front of the reader only works that are worthy, and to celebrate those with a consistent editorial standard, is to create a framework for what “good” means, and thus to implicitly outline the “bad,” the unworthy, by way of negative space around the good. The celebrator then becomes a critic without being critical — at least not with the abrasive connotations the term has come to bear — yet upholds the standards of “good” and “bad” work with just as much rigor.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     March 18, 2013, 3:02 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising
“The Economist has taken the view that advertising is nice, and we’ll certainly take money where we can get it, but we’re pretty much expecting it to go away.”
Why Storyful is expanding its business to work with brands
It’s one element of a broader expansion for the social news agency, which is also growing its product team and working on improving its core trend-detection technology.
An ad blocker for tragedies: How news sites handle content around sensitive stories
For stories like the Germanwings plane crash, The New York Times and many other publishers flip a switch to remove ads to avoid unwanted connections.
What to read next
2481
tweets
Millennials say keeping up with the news is important to them — but good luck getting them to pay for it
The new report from the Media Insight Project looks at millennials’ habits and attitudes toward news consumption: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”
926The next stage in the battle for our attention: Our wrists
News companies have moved from print dollars to digital dimes to mobile pennies. Now, with the highly anticipated launch of the Apple Watch, the screens are getting even smaller. How are smart publishers thinking about the right way to serve users and maintain their attention on smartwatches?
792A wave of distributed content is coming — will publishers sink or swim?
Instead of just publishing to their own websites, news organizations are being asked to publish directly to platforms they don’t control. Is the hunt for readers enough to justify losing some independence?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
ABC News
EveryBlock
Financial Times
News Corp
Examiner.com
Mother Jones
OpenFile
Hacks/Hackers
Baristanet
Bayosphere
Talking Points Memo
IRE/NICAR