Are You Reading This?
A self-aware article on article writing itself, exploring and questioning the readership of The Spectator and the Opinions Department.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
To read or not to read is the question when it comes to The Spectator. Many choose the latter option. Though the newsrack, full of the latest issue, clears out pretty quickly, the newspaper often gets skimmed, and most articles are not fully read. Once, I saw someone pick up a copy, only to throw it away a block later, and I’ve heard students discussing the pointlessness of the newspaper several times. While varied readership is expected of any publication, we must look at the flipside of the coin: the writers. Publishing has always been centered around the consumers, yet most articles don’t reveal the story of how they were written and the writers who wrote them.
Beneath the making of the articles is an underlying, uncomfortable question: who reads my writing? Who picks up the copies of the newspaper from the rack by the scanners: the students who are featured in it or those who need an umbrella substitute? What impact do my articles have on readers, if any? I’ve asked myself these questions when going through the time-consuming process that’s necessary for each article, trying to figure out whether I’m writing them for myself or for an audience.
Stuyvesant students are preoccupied with enough Plato and Shakespeare for English assignments, so it is understandable that many would not spend their free time reading even more. That’s where the pressure of coming up with something eye-catching comes from. Like my editors have told me, Opinions articles should not be something one can find in The New York Times. Though we aim for our articles to be relevant and relatable to the student body, there’s still the sinking feeling that no one cares to read the articles I write. The Spectator’s writers don’t receive much feedback from the assumed consumers of our articles, which feeds into doubt about the purpose of writing.
Coming into the Opinions Department, I was obsessed with forming ideas that would captivate the public, but I ended up writing about things I didn’t particularly enjoy. I wrote better when the subject was something I was interested in, not just for The Spectator, but for my classes as well. Once I relaxed those expectations of writing something revolutionary, it came more naturally. Improvement should not be for the sake of others but for yourself, and the success that comes with improving should be celebrated. Writers are pressured to improve for external achievements, such as a better grade or popularity of a piece, when the true reward lies internally.
Ideally, published writing should amount to a meaningful personal journey while simultaneously reaching the targeted audience and having an impact. That balance is usually not achieved. Different types of writing tend to determine the journey the writer takes. It’s an ESPN journalist’s job to report about the World Cup, while it’s a fiction novelist’s job to create something that resonates close to them. Yet the genre or given time shouldn’t take away from the priceless value you can attain from any medium of writing. It shouldn’t be all about how many clicks you receive or the worldwide gross revenue.
Writing is a constant learning experience. The art of being able to form an infinite amount of ideas, statements, and questions with words is a spectacle itself. Though they are correlated, that aspect should not be overshadowed by the attractiveness of sharing and displaying the writing created. Articles and most publications are too often produced as a quick transfer of furiously typed paragraphs to meet a deadline. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have an impact with publications, and it’s admirable when they do so, but worrying about who reads the articles should not be prioritized over enjoying the writing itself.
Zooming back into Stuyvesant and The Spectator, if we attain the core benefits of writership, reaping the merits of readership and college application points will come easily. Even though writing for the sake of writing is easier said than done in the world of publishing, being able to use writing as a tool for expression is such a freeing experience. The idea of someone caring to read your article merely becomes an added bonus.