Houston Matters

Have social media’s ‘hot takes’ and memes replaced genuine, well-written discourse?

We ask a father and daughter for whom writing is central to their lives.

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This week marked the anniversary in 1776 of Thomas Paine publishing his pamphlet, Common Sense. In 47 pages, he advocated for independence from Great Britain through clear, persuasive writing.

Now, nearly 250 years later, we have a lot of people who are more than happy to share their thoughts, often in plain and not very impressive prose, and usually in reductive and pithy sentences, memes, or emojis.

That left us wondering: Are we losing our ability to write compelling, elaborate, but clearly thought-out and persuasive essays? Are social media threads the closest we get now? Have we abdicated the high ground of quality intellectual discourse in favor of "hot takes?" Is there space anymore for well-crafted, highly sourced, idea-provoking language that doesn't just pander to a bubble, but challenges our strongly held beliefs? And if there is, who is in that space writing it, and who's reading it?

In the audio above, we talk it over with Raj Mankad, the deputy opinion editor at the Houston Chronicle and co-founder of Grackle and Grackle Literary Enterprises, which teaches and consults on creative writing. Also with us is Raj's daughter, Lila Mankad, a published poet and senior in the creative writing program at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.