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Theme: Mightier Than The Sword?

It was a dark and stormy night… or so goes the very first sentence of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford, which is now the inspiration for an annual contest for badly written first sentences. Bulwer-Lytton is also the author of another famous one liner— ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ Even now, Charlie Hedbo likens writers to fighters and pens to guns, and undoubtedly the modern media is an unwieldy force. But how powerful and truly influential are words in our deeply distracted, information overloaded, media-drenched world? Amongst the algorithms and aggregators, Google AMP and Apple News, what clout does good writing have anyway? On his very recent trip to Sydney, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti told The Australian he believes print newspapers and magazines are out. Though, for a man who has been obsessively studying viral content since the dinosaur days of email chains, he still believes it takes work to keep up in the information age. ‘You can’t think that everything is going to be magically pushed to you,’ he said. Peretti, who also co-founded The Huffington Post, has been at the frontline of our new world media for the last two decades. For the Silicon Valley local, that’s involved carefully following the mathematics and technology behind virality, but also the complicated psychology and empathy and humanity involved. At Piretti’s Vivid Ideas discussion with 7.30 host Lee Sales, the media visionary and OG prankster enthused that good writing in a densely connected digital world should not simply be about reciting interesting or newsworthy information. It’s not even about good prose—sad but true. The world is fast now but it’s also social and its empathy and desire to connect runs deep. The best content provides some inherent value or use to the reader, caressing their own identity and humanity, and their sense of connection to the wider world. So sure—words can change the world, but not when we don’t feel a reason to engage. This month, we invite you to exercise the stretch of your attention span, and choose not to mark this month’s thought essay as, ‘too long, didn’t read’. Take a literary journey with us, and write that email campaign. Or, don’t take our word for it—listen to three of Sydney’s most intriguing media minds and writers on the business of words at Insight by The Office Space. Want more? Stay in touch and subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

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