Monday, May 4, 2009

I Allegedly Keep Neglecting this Blog

Other summer projects have been getting in the way, really! But now I have something to say.

This quote, from "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" struck me as extremely true:

"This is why all reporters eventually go insane: Even if you see a guy shoot someone - in fact, even if a guy shoots you in the face, and you watch the bullet come out of the chamber of the .38 he's holding - the event needs to be described as an "alleged" crime, and that alleged criminal needs to allege that he had no part in anything that allegedly happened." - Chuck Klosterman

I am definitely going to go crazy because of this some day.

Now I understand the need for such language, in principal anyways. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Journalism is supposed to be about the facts, not who did or didn't do something. Yet it's really hard to say alleged when someone confesses, or when the event has a large number of witnesses. I start to wonder how much it is about the truth, and how much it is about how to avoid getting sued.

I had a lot of trouble with the legalities around reporting I learned in my News Gathering class, especially court reporting. In fact, all I know for sure is if I don't find a way to remember all that stuff fast, and I have to do a court story, I'm probably going to get sued. The excessive use of the word alleged seemed so unnecessary when for all it tries, reporting doesn't stick to the objective truth. Of course, you don't lie, that would be wrong . But out of pages and pages of notes that may be irrelevant, you need to exclude some things, and what you exclude depends on where you want the story to go.

There are also the observations we were told to make, and the leaving out of confessions and past criminal histories that I had a hard time grasping when it came to court reporting. We were told that we could report on how the person looked when they walked into court, their body language and their attire. Now what does that have to do with anything? Guilt or innocence? It just seemed to be a way of manipulating that precious "truth". And if someone confesses, do you still need to say allegedly? Sure they could be lying, or coerced, but they did say for a fact that they did the crime. Past criminal histories were another thing that I had a hard time leaving out. I mean, it happened, it's a matter of public record, and it was said in court. If it damages a persons case, that's because people can't separate past from present.

Klosterman also has trouble with the fact that journalists know for a fact that most people lie to them, and they must get both sides of a story however one sided a story may seem. It's perfectly all right to print something you know to be untrue, if of course, someone else said it. As long as it's properly attributed, it's fine. The same is to be said for stories where you know one side is right. As a journalist, you're not allowed to have an opinion. And while you may be pretty sure that a law protecting children from molesters is a good thing, you're going to need to find someone who thinks we should be nicer to the molesters, in order to present a fair and balanced story.

Don't get me wrong, I still want to be a journalist very much in spite of this small annoyance. There's too much about it that I love. I will allegedly get used to saying alleged seemingly unnecessarily. If it were a viable career option to be a professional blogger though, I'd totally do that.

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