I don’t think you can “teach” wild knowledge, any more than you can teach voice and tone; the very notion seems oxymoronic. I don’t think I’ve ever taught anyone to be a critic, or to sound like themselves and no one else. At best, in my own writings and lectures, and teaching, I’ve modeled that, in an eccentric, one-off way. Because, in the last analysis, as the film critic P. Adams Sitney once said, “Criticism isn’t a profession, it’s a disposition of the soul at certain moments.” [...]
You can train an athlete, a sharpshooter, an airplane mechanic, a neurosurgeon, a computer programmer, and perhaps a hard-news journalist. But unless you have as your goal someone who will replicate a certain set of actions to achieve a predetermined result, you can’t (or shouldn’t) train a philosopher, a psychoanalyst, an artist, or a critic. [...]
In my previous post I discussed Thomas E. Patterson’s just-published book, Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism (Vintage Books, 2013), which puts forward the radical idea that journalism as a practice would improve dramatically if journalists actually knew something about the subjects they covered.
Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School, founded Journalist’s Resource, [...]
It may seem preposterous to have to advocate for and even defend “knowledge-based journalism” against ignorant or dumb opinionation. But we live amidst a growing faith in the reliability of what Jaron Lanier and others refer to as “hive mind,” the collective wisdom (and lack thereof) of whatever amorphous and usually anonymous aggregate one might encounter in an online forum or the listener base for a call-in talk show or the habitués of your neighborhood sports bar. [...]
The dumbing down of our culture and its citizenry has achieved a momentum that seems inexorable and may prove irreversible. But some it happens deliberately, by choice. For example, the newly appointed editor at the website BuzzFeed, Isaac Fitzgerald, has actually banned negative book reviews. He expects contributors to “follow what he calls the ‘Bambi Rule’: ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.’” [...]