Amanda Oon talks about the power of print and why it’s here to stay

When I was very young, I wanted to be a princess.

I wish I could say that such early aspirations were signs of an ambitious high achiever, with a slightly Machiavellian taste for good quality and social control. My parents bought the paper crowns and optimistically pondered putting “Good leadership skills” on my CV. As is so often the case though, as I grew older, it became clear to them that their offspring’s dream wasn’t a sign of keen social acumen or a flair for democratic governance. I was simply a gobby little madam who wanted everyone to hear what I had to say.


It didn’t take long for me to exchange prospective royalty for my second big life plan: journalism, which, for better or for worse, I’ve never since been able to shake off. At first, this could not have seemed more radically different from my previous dream job. The paper crowns were replaced by an Early Learning Centre Dictaphone which made everyone I religiously recorded sound like Yoda on Speed. The royal decrees were replaced by furiously scribbled journals, in which recordings of alien sightings intercepted articles that often ran: “I HAT MY MUM FOR MAYKING ME WHERE THIS DRESS”.

But the inherent principle was undeterred and the same as ever. I was still a gobby little madam. Only, as a journalist, I didn’t have to make a Festive telly broadcast or attend a party dressed as an inadvisable character from WWII. I could just write – and hope that someone somewhere would be enlightened, curious, or simply bored enough to welcome my thoughts in to mingle and make small talk with their own.

…the written word rests an underappreciated, but immutable means of communication…

15 years later: the spelling has been honed slightly, but the sentiment remains. And to be honest, I don’t feel alone. It seems in Britain we have a strained, but strong love affair with the tradition of the printed language. We are Anglophones, and in the embarrassing incapacity to blend in anywhere else on holiday, we’ll damn well make sure we uphold the standard of our own tongue.

Whether it’s the conventional image of the panda who eats, shoots, and leaves, or the more humiliating tale of when I overlooked the comma between ‘chicken’ and ‘shisha’ on a local kebab shop sign, and almost got reported to the RSPCA on grounds of unconventional ordering – even grammar remains as attached to us as my old royal role model. And in a society where there are over a thousand national newspapers in print and violent protest over Mayor Boris Johnson’s quest to close smaller council publications, the written word rests an underappreciated, but immutable means of communication.

As Jon Grisby, Head of Media Group Yahoo said: “Do newspapers have a future? Absolutely. But it’s a future that looks quite different from the one they’ve been used to” And instead of fearing this, we should find it exciting, invigorating. That’s definitely how I felt when I signed up to Mouth: a publication focused entirely on giving young people a voice.

Whether royal, reporter or anyone in between, the hackneyed gospel “May every voice be heard” has actually never rung truer. So, Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. Or if you can’t manage that, at least a grubby notepad and an outdated Dictaphone. And I’ll be a very happy little hack indeed.


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