Near discussion on art
I am currently in my instructor training. We have class all day and I learn about personality types, presentation techniques, lesson plans, etc—generally the skills needed to function as a teacher.
In our class is a smattering of personalities and ranks from throughout the building. Some are at the schoolhouse to teach officers, some with returning service members in advanced classes, and the rest, like myself, are to instruct new troops, fresh out of training.
Each hour of instruction has with it a 10-minute break. During one of those breaks, I almost had an interesting conversation about writing, books, what makes “good” art, and the state of modern communication.
The teacher of the hour that had just wrapped up was an Air Force NCO. She and I started talking about…well, I’ve forgotten it presently. Anyway, something was mentioned about the new Harry Potter book and its author, J.K. Rowling.
I mentioned my astonishment that the woman was now a billionaire—not that she didn’t deserve to be, but I can’t wrap my mind around money like $1,000,000,000. That’s a heaping lot of cash.
“She’s suuuch a good writer,” my teacher gushed.
“Well, that’s arguable,” I countered. She furrowed her brow, wondering, I think, if I was going to go on some sort of anti-Harry Potter diatribe. I continued. “Some point out that her prose is a little clumsy. You know—not anything along the lines of the quote, ‘great’ authors.”
She shrugged and nodded.
“But she connects with her audience,” I said. “And if an artist can connect with his or her audience, then there’s some greatness in that. But what makes a ‘good’ writer? Is it the work itself or how much it sells?”
“Well, she’s definitely a success! Look at how many copies she’s sold,” the lieutenant colonel interjected. He sat next to me and had returned to his seat, entering the conversation.
“But don’t you think there are those who defend the quality of the art?” I asked. “I mean, those who study it and appreciate it and can operate at a certain level; don’t you think they should have a say in what is or isn’t good art, rather than just sales receipts?”
He shrugged. “She sells a lot of books. That’s a good writer by my book.”
“But, anyway, it’s exciting to be in media these days,” I said. “We’re seeing a shift. It used to be that to be in media, you had to belong to a big newspaper or a big TV station. Now, though, things are shifting toward the end user. The user is creating his or her own content—bloggers, podcasters, people are creating their own stuff.”
“But they aren’t real journalists,” the light colonel said.
“They’re significant. They’re content creators. People read their stuff.”
“They’re small time. You have to have a certain set of standards in your writing. It’s what we teach. Are you saying they don’t need us anymore?”
“Well, sir, some bloggers are very influential. They’re being invited to press conferences and are involved in lots of political races. It’s the future.”
“I don’t believe that. You show me a blog that has circulation that’s larger than our base newspapers. Larger than the Fort Hood paper? C’mon.”
With that the break ended and we had to start class again.