Bauman on Journalism

In earlier posts (here and here) I've shared fragments of my meeting and interview with Zygmunt Bauman this Summer in Leeds, England. As I work through the transcript and think about his words, I will continue to share 'textbites' - much in line with Bauman's argument about the nature of experiencing liquid life: a 'pointillist' interview, a meeting in fragments.

"In pointillist time, journalists are already surrounding around the latest, the exclusive... and exclusive is very important to journalism: The exclusive of the New York Times, the exclusive Indiana Courier or whatever it is called [Hoosier Times, MD]. Exclusive means "That point, I found. No one else. It is my point. It is my big bang, my universe." And the second connection between that and journalism, I was thinking about journalism because I was expecting your visit, is that journalism is not so much about delivering narrative and developing story, but about clearing sides for the next story. It is generally liquid modern culture. It is a culture more of forgetting than learning. It is this day that we hold yesterday's knowledge and yesterday's truth and yesterday's successes, and so on. So that the driving force is at least to clear the sides, to start from scratch, to make possible new beginnings."

There is a tension here between the modernist role of journalism as (self-proclaimed) guardian of the nation-state's institutions - which requires a solid modern approach, a focus on society's elites, a well-documented institutional bias - and Bauman's observation that the storytelling of journalists can be seen as the perfect expression of liquid modern life: a series of disconnected moments in time, filled with unarticulated promise (and peril), decontextualized by the reporter's quest for his or her next 'Big Bang', next scoop, next headline and byline.