One of my favourite New Statesman journalists is Alice Miles. In the Political Studies Guide 2011 supplement to the edition of 29 November 2010, she comes closer still to my heart. In a piece entitled “Talk human, please”, she argues that academic writing fails to engage with the real world, which she found as an experienced journalist trying to satisfy her academic tutors on a masters course in social policy.
She is of course correct, ignoring the need for rigour and accuracy, there is frequently a need for pedantry and circulating the houses so many times it would make any normal reader dizzy! A key element I believe, as a blogging academic practitioner, is around the need for a greater acceptance of new media within academic circles, for as she states “it is no good sitting around in ivory towers (OK, they’re more usually made of concrete breeze blocks) condemning journalism for being ill-informed pap and then refusing to take part in it”.
Blogging is one way of learning to write for a wider audience.
In the same way that academic writing is frequently too heavy for the average citizen (and having been brainwashed into writing for an academic audience, I am as guilty as any), there is another set of authors that fail to do it for the average citizen and that is those brought up in the ways of council solicitors and bureaucracy. It has taken time to teach the average council officer to write for the web but there remain islands where council notices in the legally prescribed format are transferred to the Internet without any translation! This, in the same way that practitioners will refuse to read stilted academic literature, will restrain citizens from interacting with councils via the Internet.