(Photo: All Rights Reserved, Tim Ferriss)
I have spent much of the last six weeks of the UK’s bitterly cold November in a hammock.
I have been able to do this almost exclusively thanks to what I learned from Tim Ferriss in his disruptive debut publication, The 4-Hour Workweek. Thanks to Tim, I was able to quit my job and travel while an automated source of income feeds my bank account. The hammock, from which I’m typing right now, is strung up in the exterior courtyard of a rented beach house in the Brazilian surf town of Itacaré.
While the next book I read in this hammock will be The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life (out November 20th), the last was Page One: Inside the New York Times and the Future of Journalism; a collection of essays on the pressures facing journalism during the most tumultuous era for the industry since the invention of the printing press.
And so, as the publishing industry readies itself for a book launch that will herald a seismic shift in the way books are made, marketed and distributed (in an uprising against publisher Amazon.com, The 4-Hour Chef has become the most boycotted book since Lady Chatterley’s Lover), I put it to you that Tim Ferriss, among his many other talents and accolades and as well as his status as a New York Times bestelling author, deserves to be recognised as the greatest journalist operating in the world today.
He’s basically the Second Coming of Guttenberg.
“The job of a reporter is to expose and record.” ~ Graham Greene (Click to tweet)
Kelly McBride is a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute in California, where she specialises in ethics, writing and storytelling. She leads the Sense-Making Project, to help citizens choose among the dizzying array of sources and news information. If anyone’s in a position to tell us what constitutes journalism in a digital age, it’s her. The following are excerpts from Kelly McBride’s Page One essay, ‘What is WikiLeaks? That’s the Wrong Question’.
In their book, “The Elements of Journalism,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel offer up what is, to my mind, the best working definition [of journalism]: “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.”
Give people the right kind of information about how the world around them works, and a place to voice their own thoughts about it, and power will shift to accommodate them.
In order to become journalism, information must be organised into a coherent system for the intended recipient… to connect an audience directly with raw information, to enable them to take action.
Journalists help the audience understand why certain information is important by selectively delivering all the most meaningful stuff. Then by amplification.
The most successful journalism transforms raw information into an authoratitive narrative. That transformation can only occur when the individual crafting the narrative has an independent loyalty to the truth.
Tim’s books and highly influential blog have done exactly as McBride defines, filtering the simple from the suffocating and giving readers the tools to create the lives they want to lead in a world they want to live in. In The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferriss shared the secret weapons he’d used to “Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”. In The 4-Hour Body, he spliced through myths and smokescreen marketing to show the world the truths about fitness. And now, with The 4-Hour Chef, his stated aim is the grandest of all – to determine the future of food production in the United States.
In the U.S., the last generation of career farmers is retiring. Specifically, more than 50% are set to retire in the next 10 years. Their farmland will be up for grabs. Will it go to an industrial agro-corp like Monsanto, and therefore most likely lead to monocrops (wheat, corn, soy, etc.) that decimate ecosystems? Will it be strip malls? Or might it become a collection of smaller food producers? The last option is the only one that’s environmentally sustainable. It’s also the tastiest. As Michael Pollan would say: how you vote three times a day (with the meals you eat) will determine the outcome.
To dodge the submerged iceberg of industrial-scale food production and its side effects, to alter the course of this country and reinvigorate the economy, all I need to do is make you more interested in food. In total, we need to make 20 million people more aware of eating.
It’s the noblest of ambitions, but with Ferriss’ stratospheric social media reach and talent for getting the most from the least, we’re dealing with a man who knows his numbers as well as his facts. In a world where the powers to distract and distort are more powerful than ever, if that’s not award-winning journalism then we need a new set of rules.