For much of my adult life I was a diligent producer of daily and weekly journalism. In recent years I have become a gargantuan consumer of it. It is a privilege to earn one’s living by writing but, as I discovered, it is also a privilege, and a less stressful one, to earn one’s living by reading.
I read all day. Were it not for the demands of sleep and family life, I would read all night. My aim is to find all the writing worth reading on the internet, and to recommend the five or six best pieces each day on my website, the Browser. I pass over in silence here the Browser’s many virtues. My purpose here is to share with you four lessons I have learnt in five years’ drinking from the fire hose.
My first contention: this is a great time to be a reader. The amount of good writing freely available online far exceeds what even the most dedicated consumer might have hoped to encounter a generation ago within the limits of printed media.
I don’t pretend that everything online is great writing. Let me go further: only 1 per cent is of value to the intelligent general reader, by which I mean the demographic that, in the mainstream media world, might look to the Economist, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs or the Atlantic for information. Another 4 per cent of the internet counts as entertaining rubbish. The remaining 95 per cent has no redeeming features. But even the 1 per cent of writing by and for the elite is an embarrassment of riches, a horn of plenty, a garden of delights.