3:51 PM

Journalism IS a cheap parlour trick

Big-time reporter Rosie DiManno writes for the Toronto Star:

Going "undercover" to tell a story is just about the laziest form of reporting existent. The conceit is that a reporter masquerading as a citizen sign-up – or homeless person or religious cultist or domestic – can better grasp the matter by providing a first-person in-those-shoes account. But this is shortcut journalism and intrinsically dishonest.

I say dishonest not because of the core misrepresentation – duplicity is a common tactic in reporting, if only by posing as a sympathetic audience – but because a story thus told becomes more about the narrator and less about the subject. Why bother asking the relevant questions or doing the time-consuming research when the reporter can just "see for himself"?

Well, Ms. DiManno, if that is your real name, I disagree.

The failure in her argument is that journalists who go undercover are trying to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. That is, how will you really know what it's like to be handicapped if you don't see what it's like yourself? How will you know what it's like to live on the streets? The so-called news item then becomes a narrative of your time...except you know that at the end of the day, you can get up and walk away from a wheelchair, or you can go home to your family, and therefore, you'll never really get what it's like, to truly understand. It's lazy journalism because you should just invest the time to do all the necessary research and make all the necessary phone calls, right?

I don't think so.

Undercover reporting is more than just writing about yourself. How do you understand the complexities of a political camp or the mafia underworld if you don't ally yourself directly with the sources? Do you really think that you'll get more insight by talking to a twitchy, mysterious "informant"? And is it really that easy to lead a double life? Rosie, you're underestimating the complexities of it, I think.

And as much as we'd all like to believe, there is no such thing as impartial journalism or an absolute truth.

You can always read the full article yourselves and decide. On the plus side, whether or not Rosie was trying to be offensive or not, she did incite debate and make me think, so good on you, Rosie D.

The Star also threw out an article in yesterday's paper with an interview with a fellow who believes homework should be banned. My head almost exploded with the insanity, but that's a story for another time.


Eric said...

I tried to think up a comment, but you wrote all the stuff we talked about.

Go back to sleep!

Shey said...

I stopped trusting her reporting skills/opinion when we heard those stories about her from Cassandra.