Newspapers Fall Short of Their Potential

Arnheim has become the darling of the press, quoted at every opportunity. That this is so is indicative of a problem with journalism.

For some reason newspapers are not the laboratories and experimental stations of the mind that they could be, to the public’s great benefit, but usually only its warehouses and stock exchanges. If he were alive today, Plato–to take him as an example, because along with a dozen others he is regarded as the greatest thinker who ever lived–would certainly be ecstatic about a news industry capable of creating, exchanging, refining a new idea every day; where information keeps pouring in from the ends of the earth with a speediness he never knew in his own lifetime, while a staff of demiurges is on hand to check it all out instantaneously for its content of reason and reality. He would have supposed a newspaper office to be that topos uranios, that  heavenly realm of ideas, which he has described so impressively that to the day all the better class of people are still idealists when talking to their children or employees. And of course if Plato were to walk suddenly into a news editor’s office today and prove himself to be indeed that great author who died over two thousand years ago, he would be a tremendous sensation and would instantly be showered with a most lucrative offers. If he were then capable of writing a volume of philosophical travel pieces in three weeks, and a few thousand of his well-known short stories, perhaps even turn one or the other  of his older works into a film, he could undoubtedly do very well for himself for a considerable period of time. The moment his return had ceased to be news, however, and Mr. Plato tried to put into practice one of his well-known ideas, which had never quite come into their own, the editor in chief would ask him to submit only a nice little column on the subject now and then for the Life and Leisure section (but in the easiest and most lively style possible, not heavy: remember the readers), and the features editor would add that he was sorry, but he could use such a contribution only once a month or so, because there were so many other good writers to be considered. (I,352)

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