Who Said Newspapers Were Dead? How Offline Sources Make You a Better Online Writer

“Nothing is fun when you have to do it–over & over, again & again–or else you’ll be evicted, and that gets old.” Hunter S. Thompson (on article writing services, a.k.a. Rolling Stone, Scanlan’s Monthly, etc.)

It’s said that Ernest Hemingway read three newspapers a day. But did he? If you’re busy running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Key West, bagging lions with Frances Macomber, drinking, carousing, marrying, divorcing, marrying again and trying to write something that is good and true and strong, would you even have any time to put your feet up and enjoy the paper? Needless to say, Hemingway’s style and content are filled with journalistic flair; he had a keen ear for dialog and was able to echo that in his prose, and the nuances he gave to his locales combine the best of travel writing with an on-the-scene type of reporting.

Looking Beyond Genres

So, what’s the point of introducing this article with a Hunter S. Thompson quote and following it up by putting Hemingway under the microscope? Both writers looked outside of their genres for inspiration, and both were better writers for it. In other words, if you’re a freelance writer making a living writing articles and blogs online, why not look to offline sources for inspiration?

Writing As Adaptation

The novel was supposed to be dead (is it still dead, resurrected or reincarnated?). Newspapers were supposed to go the way of the dinosaur, too. However, despite budget cuts and declines in subscriptions, good old-fashioned ink remains resilient. Adaptation in the face of extinction is an apt way to describe it. Just this past year the Times Picayune, a 175-year-old New Orleans paper, cut back to three days a week instead of going completely belly-up. People still love their newspapers, and as writers, we cannot lose these traditions.

Scouring the headlines of a world-class paper or reading magazines like The New Yorker or Harper’s is the perfect remedy for content block. Reading a newspaper will make you a better (AP) writer, too, but newspapers only killed our beloved Oxford comma because it took up space, and that space costs money.

The Fuzzed-Out Line Between Fiction and Nonfiction

Let’s jump back to Hunter S. Thompson. The idea of gonzo journalism came to him from a comment made by William Faulkner. It went something like, “the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism.” The fuzzed-out line between fiction and nonfiction not only existed in Thompson’s time, but continues today in novelist/essayist/travel writers like Geoff Dyer. This is why the novel isn’t dead, because like the newspaper it’s continually adapting.

Of course, as a content writer, these types of ideas aren’t applicable to all assignments. Imagine the rating the client would give you after you gonzoed a law article. However, fellow writers, a newspaper subscription is never a bad idea.

Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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