Saturday, May 17, 2014

Matthew Arnold's warning about "The New Journalism"

Matthew Arnold was no fan of William Thomas Stead. In an article titled "Up to Easter", Arnold writes, among other things:
But we have to consider the new voters, the democracy, as people are fond of calling them. They have many merits, but among them is not that of being, in general, reasonable persons who think fairly and seriously. We have had opportunities of observing a new journalism which a clever and energetic man has lately invented. It has much to recommend it; it is full of ability, novelty, variety, sensation, sympathy, generous instincts ; its one great fault is that it is feather-brained. It throws out assertions at a venture because it wishes them true; does not correct either them or itself, if they are false; and to get at the state of things as they truly are seems to feel no concern whatever.

Well, the democracy, with abundance of life, movement, sympathy, good instincts, is disposed to be, like this journalism, feather-brained; just as the upper class is disposed to be selfish in its politics, and the middle class narrow.

The "clever and energetic man" he is referring to is William Thomas Stead. Arnold also wrote about Stead behind the scenes, having written this to his friend John Morley:

P.S. - Under your friend Stead, the P.M.G., whatever may be its merits, is fast ceasing to be literature.

Stead was the Pall Mall Gazette's editor.

Here is what Matthew Arnold is trying to warn people about: Government By Journalism a.k.a., "The New Journalism".

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