Reporting as an art form: W.H. Auden on Henry James

Henry James, W.H. Auden, some reporters

Not for attribution

W.H. Auden said it took imagination “of a very high order” to “extract importance” from events while remaining faithful to them, “free only to select and never to modify or add.”

He was introducing a 1946 edition of Henry James’s The American Scene, a travel book that Auden considered more than that. Travel he called the “easiest subject for the journalist” who requires only “a flair for being on the spot where interesting events happen.”

For the artist, on the other hand, it’s that “high order” performance.

However, I’ve known journalists who like James as Auden described him, or at least somewhat like him, picked what mattered, extracting importance without modifying or adding to it.

It’s been a goal worth striving for, even on deadline.

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