WhatsApp and Twitter Should Complement, and not be an Alternative, to Reading and Research
In 1986, the self-defined Italian food ‘gourmet’, Carlo Petrini, launched a philosophy — the Slow Food Movement. Initially conceived (and perceived) as a response to the globalisation of takeaway brands such as McDonald’s in Europe, the Movement became a rallying call to protect local cuisine, culture and the communities which depended on them.
“Against the universal madness of the Fast Life, the Slow Food Manifesto declared1,”…we need to choose the defence of tranquil material pleasure. Against those, and there are many of them, who confuse efficiency with frenzy, we propose the vaccine of a sufficient portion of assured sensual pleasure, to be practiced in slow and prolonged enjoyment…”
McDonald’s still opened in Italy – and, soon, Starbucks2 – but the impact of the Slow Food Movement is palpable 20 years on; it spawned an entire industry of conferences, events, brands, political and environmental support – even securing European Union funding3 as a means to protect and nurture ‘the essence of local communities across the region.
The layers and logic of Slow Food are many and varied – from simple indulgence to environmental considerations. In its simplest form it is a belief that food should aspire to be more than simply ‘fuel’, an exercise in replenishing calories, but an event that defines and differentiates us as humans – one that includes company, variety, goodness and the time to enjoy it.
I see a wonderful parallel with the world of news. While social media (particularly, Twitter) has reduced debate and discussion to 140 characters, our capacity to absorb and reflect on issues is becoming increasingly neglected.
Last month, my firm was lucky enough to host acclaimed broadcaster and producer, Bill Lancaster, to a roundtable discussion on the role of storytelling in today’s (multi)-media environment. Over a 20-year career, Bill has produced shows for NBC, CNBC, CBS, MTV, VH1, Bloomberg Business News, USA Network, The Travel Channel and The Food Network on everything from investigative reporting to travel and lifestyle.
Currently Northeastern University’s Communication Professor, Bill encourages his (millennial and, now, Gen Z) students to vary their information sources, and not limit their views on the world to short-form social media. “For today’s Generation Y, reading the back of a cereal packet over breakfast is the closest most of them get to long form. But I remain a fan of both long form and my millennial students!” he said.
I’ve never considered Kellogg’s or Nabisco as great publishers of our time, but who knows, anything to encourage alternative forms of content and thinking. A Slow News movement could mirror Carlo Petrini’s vision in every way. Promoting the joy of reading and research, for its own sake, the benefits of ‘non-prescriptive’ news which leaves time and space for the ready to make their own editorial judgement, the simple, aesthetic pleasure of a well-rounded argument, the art of ‘media grazing’ on a subject with which the reader has no prior reference…
Algorithms, filters, reduced screen-size…that characterises social media all conspire against Slow News. But the benefits could be enormous; from the propagation of alternative thought to the creation of jobs; from the protection and nurturing of communities to new economic and business models.
Social media has brought new levels of transparency and made news freely available to more people than at any point in history. But —like McDonald’s —I believe it should be considered a complement, not an alternative, to the main event.
Let’s raise a (locally-produced) glass to the joys and benefits of Slow News!