Special Guest: Mark Bowden (Part 2)
Mark Bowden returns for the second and final chapter of his Q&A with us. Yesterday, we posted his thoughts on the American military in the 21st century; today, we ask him about new media and his current work.
4. You have advocated new media, suggesting that aspiring journalists should learn to work with videocams, websites, etc. However, some critics claim that as new media broadens, attention spans contract. Does this calculus weigh on your work at all?
I think the conventional wisdom about contracting attention spans is horseshit. I have made a good living writing at length, and I believe the opportunity is still out there for anyone similarly inclined. Young people today are better and more broadly educated than any in history. They are accustomed to the internet, and have become expert browsers, by which I mean they navigate themselves in an unruly ocean of instant information. In the past, newspapers, magazines, etc did that work for readers, and I suspect younger readers will eventually discover the usefulness of that approach, but for the most part today’s readers steer themselves toward the information they want. Once they zero in, they are just as willing as readers ever have been to dig deep. Nothing will ever replace language as the medium of thought, so nothing will replace the well-written, originally-reported story, or the well-reasoned essay. Anyone writing serious journalism today knows how perceptive, accurate, and instructive their readers can be, and how quickly you hear from them, far more so today than in the past. So I have not changed my work or my goals. I’m still trying to be a better writer and reporter.
5. What are you working on these days? Are there any big themes you see as important going forward — important issues that people aren’t talking about, angles that are unexplored?
I have a steady diet of magazine writing, and contracts for several books. I think the continuing decline of religion is one of the most important stories of our time, but I am not the first to notice that. I think food issues are enormous, with much broader global implications than we imagine — health, environment, economy, politics. Beyond that, it’s all the same mystery it has ever been.