Why First Person Non-Fiction Is Dubious

Okay, let me deal with the hypocrisy thing first, before you even think of it. What you’re reading here is a column, necessarily opinionated in places and inevitably calling for use of the first person. So don’t wince, don’t write, nasty letters, don’t send me “practice what you preach” e-mails when you see “I…I…I” herein.

Because I am about to raise the alarm about what seems to be a creeping epidemic of first-personism in contemporary American nonfiction writing. I’m not talking about columns, personal essays or other forms where the first-person perspective is welcome, even expected. No, I’m raising the proverbial red flag about the intrusion of I into otherwise straightforward journalism.

nwThe examples I’ll cite are culled from some