Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Journalistic Restraint




Bonnie Berkowitz writes in the Washington Post "In Louisiana, damage from the oil spill can be deceiving" http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/31/AR2010053103113.html

In the article, Berkowitz describes how at first glance, the Louisiana coast doesn't appear all that damaged. The oil is not obviously devastating, but perniciously present -everywhere. The slow choke will be much more terrible than the flash of flames that began it all.
As I read, I was refreshed to be reading an honest REPORT of someone's experience rather than a sensational GLOSS. This is journalistic restraint. As a journalist, it is so tempting to tell a story with the way you want your reader to think of it at the forefront. Because you think the oil spill is a tragedy, you want to make it seem as tragic as possible. Because you think people should be outraged, you are tempted to report only the outrageous. It is a subtle form of professional arrogance that perpetuates this idea that the reader needs to be schooled in what to think rather than simply given the facts to think about.

The Gulf oil spill is indeed a tragedy. It needs no gloss.

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