George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” Essay
Updated: May 5th, 2020
At the heart of George Orwell’s writing are the changes undergoing the English language and their impacts on communication and precision. Orwell criticizes the incompetence and vagueness of the contemporary English prose. The author is particularly concerned about the quality of political writing. The central argument of Orwell’s paper is that contemporary prose is using fewer words that have real meaning and more phrases that resemble pieces of a prefabricated hen-house.
Orwell is very detailed in his analysis of the English prose’s shortcomings. Dying metaphors, verbal false limbs, meaningless words and pretentious diction have all become the objects of Orwell’s criticism. The author uses the most interesting pieces of modern English writing which, in his view, are linguistic parodies consisting of long sequences of meaningless words used to make the result more presentable. In Orwell’s view, most of what is currently used in English prose could be readily replaced with simpler words and more comprehensive meanings. Still, prose writers cannot betray their mission to make the language more presentable, even if does not have any sense.
Orwell’s concerns are understandable and even acceptable. Yet, the fact that his writing is inherently politicized cannot be ignored. The very title of Orwell’s writing, “Politics and the English language”, suggests that the writer cannot be truly objective in his statements. Repetitive references to Marxism and the Soviet linguistics make the case against the English language much less persuasive. Nevertheless, it is never too late to reconsider the latest developments in the English language and reevaluate their meaning and contribution to the evolution of the entire linguistic science.
Philip Meyer’s “Public Journalism”
In his writing, Meyer focuses on the concept of public journalism and its implications for writing. Meyer admits that definitions of public journalism are numerous and controversial. As a result, the author tries to delineate the six main goals of public journalism. Together, these goals are consistent with the purpose and function of any journalist – being a watchdog of the society’s fight with information overloads. Meyer refers to the concept of information overload, which shifts the historic power of the press and alters the ways, in which the community responds to it. The writer is confident that, in the absence of an explicit definition of public journalism, it can readily become a good cover for the special interests of those, who want to get a piece of the information overload pie.
Another aspect of Meyer’s discussion is that of objectivity. Meyer suggests that objectivity is essentially about being distant from the community so far that all events look objective, distant, and equally significant. The researcher speaks about the use of scientific method in journalism as one of the most relevant ways towards objectivity. Meyer writes that computer-assisted investigative reporting can save public journalism from the threats of objectivity and bias. The author concludes that public journalism should help create a learning community, which uses facts, not emotions, to discuss various issues (Meyer).
Meyer’s article provides a useful insight into the major pitfalls of public journalism and suggests ways to overcome them. The most interesting is how the author looks into the meaning of public journalism and its relation to objectivity. Meyer recommends using investigative reporting and computer-assisted information research to avoid potential abuses of the public journalism method. Unfortunately, the extreme objectivity proposed by Meyer may deprive journalism of its subjectivity merits. In other words, excessively objective journalists will not be able to express their opinions and take a stance, thus making their reports less colorful, interesting, and fascinating.
Thompson’s “To Fix or Not to Fix”
Mark Thompson speaks on whether or not it is ethical, legal, and appropriate to correct newspaper stories in online archives by editing the stories themselves, instead of attaching corrections. The author provides arguments to support both sides of the problem. On the one hand, correcting errors in the original article is more practical than having corrections attached to it. Thompson cites librarians, who speak in favor of direct corrections, simply because it is easy. At times, newspaper stories contain so many errors and need so many corrections, that it is better to remove the original story and replace it with a republished version (Thompson).
On the other hand, correcting errors in the original story raises many legal questions. Lawyers working for newspapers claim that, in case a correction is needed, it should appear as prominent as the story itself (Thompson). Many newspaper editors follow “common sense” – they fix minor errors, including misspellings, directly in the online text, whereas factual errors that require explanations are added to the original article.
Thompson keeps to the view that online archives should be made more practical in use. Therefore, it is better to correct minor and major mistakes directly in the online text. New technologies enable editors to refresh biased content quickly and at a minor cost. However, these technologies also question the originality and the historical validity of writing.
The essence of journalism and publishing is in exposing the original meanings and making them available for critical appraisal. Texts that are being continuously corrected lose their “original value.” In light of these controversies, journalists need to decide whether they want to pursue originality or simply avoid all possible mistakes in their work.
Meyer, Philip. “Public Journalism and the Problem of Objectivity.”
Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.”
Thompson, Mark. “To Fix or Not to Fix: Online Corrections Policies Vary Widely.”
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