This isn’t the most relevant detail to fuss over, I know, given the horrible fact of Wallace’s passing. For me, and for at least one of my colleagues, Wallace was a supremely important writer—-a guy who could not only access a fearsome arsenal of postmodern tools, but employ them sensibly, and make it look like he wasn’t playing you. Because he wasn’t playing you—-as overstuffed as Infinite Jest was, there was no question that he wrote out of a real worry over what it meant to live in a hypermediated, hypermedicated world, and he brought that same spirit to his reporting and essays. It’s a ridiculously difficult trick to keep pulling off: Look at everything Don DeLillo has written after Underworld, or just about everything Dave Eggers has written, period.
But who had the news of Wallace’s suicide first?
The news, in fact, first came from a book blogger, Edward Champion, who followed up on an anonymous tip. I make no grand statements about this detail—-certainly nothing about how bloggers and Twitterers and such are going to somehow supplant journalism. True, I first saw the news on Champion’s Twitter post, but I’m not hearing the replacing-journalism business until there’s a competent Twitterer at every city hall meeting. Still, I will call it a proof of how good, genuine journalism can be done by individual practitioners who care about their chosen beats—-regardless of whether you’re attached to a media organization. And though outlets like the AP and LAT certainly have their own resources with which to find a story, let the record show that they didn’t find this one first.