A light bulb illuminating the darkness

Do you seek to generate heat or light?

I read an article the other day by Gillian Tett, who has just ‘retired’ from her regular column in the Finance Times covering the political economy of the United States. And in her final missive, she shared something that has been rattling around in my brain all week.

Gillian referred to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who advises that to be a successful newspaper columnist, you need to be “in the heating business or the lighting business”. That is, the things you write need either to provoke an emotional response or to illuminate a particular topic.

The same could be said for all types of content creators, from newspaper columnists to blog writers and from podcasters to TikTok artists. If you’re not generating heat or shedding light, then however worthy your content, it’s unlikely to cut through the noise.

I’d argue, though, that it’s the lighting business that creates genuine value. It’s easy enough, after all, to provoke an emotional response. But it doesn’t necessarily get us anywhere. It’s in generating new insight into complex issues that writers and content creators across all media can have a positive and long-lasting impact.

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Image: Johannes Plenio on Unsplash





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