Newspapers with Style, without ‘Rules’

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley
Garrison Keillor —

Garrison Keillor said it in a column earlier this year: Newspapers are about style. Interestingly, the title of this column is “Seven rules for reading the paper.

Keillor writes:

“It seems to me, observing the young in coffee shops, that something is missing from their lives: the fine art of holding a newspaper. They sit staring at computer screens, sometimes with wires coming out of their ears, life passing them by as they drift through MySpace, that encyclopedia of the pathetic, and check out a video of a dog dancing the Macarena. It is so lumpen, so sad that nobody has shown them that opening up a newspaper is the key to looking classy and smart. Never mind the bronze-plated stuff about the role of the press in a democracy — a newspaper, kiddo, is about Style.”

Like “duty,” as in one’s duty to read the newspaper, “rules” is a buzzword that makes many readers’ ears perk up. I’ve been taught that there aren’t any rules in journalism, so I was surprised when I read the headline of Keillor’s piece.

What do you think about Keillor’s piece and the notion of “rules” in journalism?