Reporting as art form: Imagination required

Deadline writing quick on the uptake . . .

Writers & Writing

It has been done, in this case by a master.

In his introduction to the 1946 Scribner’s edition of Henry James’s The American Scene, W.H. Auden observes that while travel is the “easiest subject for the journalist” who requires only “a flair for being on the spot where interesting events happen,” it is the most difficult for the artist, “who is deprived of the freedom to invent, free only to select and never to modify or add, which calls for imagination of a very high order.”

Except that, as Auden goes on to show, James found ways to invent, modify, or add, exploiting his “descriptive conceits” with rhapsodies on “the golden apples of the Jersey shore” and the pleasure of “being ever so wisely driven, driven further and further, into the large lucidity of—well, of what else shall I call it but a New Jersey condition?”

A newspaper writer…

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