‘Personal’ Journalism: Getting Down into the Masses
This chapter explores the ways in which Dickens's journalistic method, as well as his message, reinforces the importance of the personal and communal in a complex response to the larger ‘wholesale’ processes of the mass media which Dickens simultaneously resisted and accelerated. It traces Dickens's various attempts to develop a journal that would fulfil both his commercial and political aspirations for popular culture and the complex system of belief underpinning them about the place of the personal (including his personality) in mass journalism. It analyses the tension in Dickens's journalism between different drives: his desire to appeal to all classes and to the largest possible readership, and thereby make money, without compromising the quality of the journalism which Dickens saw as ensuring a cohesive reading community. It argues that though none of Dickens's journalist ventures achieved the perfect welding of concern for class, commerce and culture, they reveal his understanding of the matrix of forces affecting questions of social justice that helped Dickens to his unrivalled, if not unique position, as a commercially successful and artistically respected journalist who espoused popular and radical causes. The concluding section responds to accusations that his ‘Dickensy’ journalistic voice is dishonest by arguing that Dickens's forging of the Dickens persona was a response both instinctive and strategic to the mass market and suggests his desire to transform that market into an intimate public. His marketing and mythologizing of the personal were only partly driven by his celebrity; his humanism and what some have called his radicalism have in common a belief in the power of the transformative will, in imagination as an expression of political commitment (and vice versa).
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