I bought three books by Malcolm Gladwell in the American Bookstore in Arkadia today. One of them - Blink – is a science-journalism account of the way our brains make subconscious assessment of new situations in 2 seconds. It took me less to decide to get all three books, because I already read Gladwell’s What the dog saw and if there is a greater force in the universe this reading might have provoked it to set me on a path leading to where I am right now. It doesn’t have that much to do with Warsaw, but it accounts for the existence of this blog – and for its possible end.
I can’t say I wanted to be a journalist since I was a little kid, far from it. But I have been writing quite relentlessly since I was rather young. Plus I was somewhat predestined: I wrote with ease, I had an intense interest in social sciences and my mother has been a journalist all her adult life, which did affect the angle of conversations about the world I had at home. Also, pretty early on, Polish schooling system classified me as a “humanist”, which effectively meant I was lost for natural sciences from then onwards.
And so I had my first writing published around the age of 18. Not because I was that brilliant a writer, it was just the sum of factors I listed above.
But the way media looked to my progressively less casual mind was not good. It is a sorry industry in a sorry state. Revenues have been going down, but nobody quite knows where the new money will be coming from – hence mass panic and erratic moves, throwing media outlets into vastness of the Internet, then retreating. Rolling news is very much about speedy production, people are often systematically forced to do their job badly. There is never time nor money to prepare for and produce a series piece of journalism. Unless one becomes a top reporter at the Guardian, writes for New Yorker or reports for WNYC. But these jobs are few and far in between.
It is a lot like making it in the old-fashioned music industry as an indie band. You will have to work your ass off for free to get signed – and you might never get signed at all. Once you do, you are very likely to flop after your first album. And even if you don’t, there’s a far route between you and the likes of Radiohead, with many people on the way forcing you to produce stupid pop hits that you never wanted to do in the first place.
Me and journalism parted ways. I felt out of love – and it has never loved me, it seemed. I went to work in the film industry, which was an equally ridiculous choice, but somewhat seemed right few years ago. All along I have been working designing and making web content, which has probably saved my ass among my many youthfully indiscreet decisions.
At the end of this summer I took few days off in Wrocław, where I went for the European Culture Congress. I was going round cafes and at one of them, which unfortunately for my wallet was also a bookstore, I bought What the dog saw, because I heard him on Radiolab and he seemed incredibly intelligent, measured and not allowing himself intellectual shortcuts.
Gladwell writes for the New Yorker. He produces beautiful, well researched, well thought through pieces, written in an intelligent yet not pompous language, which take on a variety of general interest subjects with people at the core, applying to their behavior the sort of modern scientific (sociology, psychology, economics) thinking that seems to be emerging out of the best modern media today. Yes, media, my old boyfriend, whom I ditched after a brief period of dating, and who by the looks of it is still and asshole. But he might be my asshole, after all.
Few weeks ago I got employed by the person who is now my boss at the Polish Radio in the External services English section. As a web and communications R&D person and – only in small part as a reporter. I’m gearing up to be doing science and technology reporting at our home base – www.thenews.pl.
so bear with me, if the warsaw blog slows down. And keep your fingers crossed for me and the media. We both need it.