The Art of Journalism

By Jasmine Wing | @jasminenatashaw

“We need long train journeys on which we have no wireless signal”
― Alain de Botton, The News: A User’s Manual

Author and philosopher, Alain De Botton, released his book, The News: A User’s Manual, last year. It is somewhat of a guide to finding your way around the news. Although De Botton has faced harsh criticism, I can’t help but find method in his madness.

De Botton proclaims the news fills the same principal position in today’s society that religion once did. I don’t think people have grasped the impact the news really has on our lives. He also smartly pointed out in his book that the news is not mentioned or taught in schools. However, after our academic life has finished we turn to the news as our information basis.

Critics have suggested De Botton “doesn’t feel comfortable with new information age” and “isn’t too interested in modern developments”. I’m sure he would argue against those accusations. But from an objective perspective I can understand what those critics are getting at although I can’t help but think those claims aren’t actually a bad thing. Hear me out. As I have previously noted I do believe we must first go backwards to move forwards. I think it is quite obvious that we are not gaining much momentum as a paying profession in the current ‘web whirlwind’, so why not contemplate De Botton’s suggestions more closely.

New information age; with everyone having access to all-encompassing diverse information at the click of a button, it does degrade the exclusivity of journalism. Journalism no longer can sustain a place of privilege that it might once have done. Consequently, have those people known as readers lost interest in journalism because of the free and easy accessible information from the internet?

Modern developments; we are living in an ‘always on’ world, where we are constantly connected and networked, unable to escape the need to check social media and the internet at every chance. With the essential requirement of smart phones, tablets and computers and the development of Wi-Fi and 3G, journalism, along with other industries, is constantly being kept on their toes. The struggle to keep up and the constant changes in consumers, is forcing journalists into unusual avenues. Readers’ are adopting a dipping approach to obtaining their news and their habits are fluctuating. They appear to be dipping into news for a fleeting moment, rather than pursuing a lengthy narrative.

The author proposes that our rush to read the first and not the second, to favour an aloof sensation to local information, shows that at heart we are “truly shallow and irresponsible citizens.

Despite all the rather negative comments De Botton paints a picture of his ‘ideal news organisation of the future’. He suggests that rather than using stories about flu epidemics or political scandals to encourage our fear and anger, the news should instead place these things in perspective.

He points out the repetition of the ‘David vs Goliath battle’ and the ‘unsung hero’ in the news. De Botton argues that the stories behind various headlines are in fact the same. It is not just a fitting way of framing a story. He says there is an underlying melody that is more important but is often the untold story.
“The phone-hacking scandal revealed a deep longing for a better kind of news, a news that wouldn’t be so cynical and so destructive,’ De Botton tells me” (Donoghue, 2014).

I feel that the art of journalism is getting lost and De Botton’s arguments may be impractical. Those arguments don’t consider the commercial reality but I do believe he speaks sense and is going someway to regaining the public’s attention to good journalism. Journalism is not left high and dry yet!


Donoghue, P. (2014, March 31st). Homework for Adults?: Alain de Botton on The News. Retrieved from Wheeler Centre:

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