“Never use ‘I’ in columns,” was one of the first lessons I received as a journalist. Oh, there I go – breaking the rule…
Still, my errant behaviour is a small ripple in comparison to the first-person obsession of modern journalism. The thinking behind not using ‘I’ is simple; the reader wants to read your opinions on a subject, not the story of your life. Few people are interesting enough to write in the first-person (God, yes. The Queen, maybe).
There’s another reason for not using the word ‘I’. You’re writing a column, so everyone knows it’s your opinion. In other words, you’re stating the obvious. And it’s boring.
Which makes the national media’s obsession with first-person accounts slightly baffling. The Mail, for example, presents a daily collection of extended rants – telling the reader how the journalist bravely gave up fish paste for Lent. Or something of that ilk.
No paper is immune. This weekend, The Guardian Magazine on Saturday splashed with one man’s story of why he doesn’t eat meat anymore (there was another cover story from the same author in today’s G2). I don’t eat meat either; can I have a book contract?
So, what’s to explain the rise of I-journalism (see Steve Jobs, I can be clever with ‘I’ too)? Probably a combination of factors: limited resources; the rise of celebrity culture, where every one is famous for 15 minutes; and the cult of the individual, where everyone believes they have something interesting to say – and everyone is meant to find it interesting.
Which begs one final question. Why am I writing this self-obsessed blog…?