Meta-commentary, rhetoric, ‘reporting’

June 13, 2006

As cited in Johnstone, Slawsky, and Bowman, A.J. Liebling (1961) identifies “at least three types of news writers:  the reporter, who writes what he sees; the interpretive reporter, who writes both what he sees and what he construes its meaning to be; and ‘the expert’ who interprets things he has not seen at all.” (p.  74).

 Aside from the humour of this, what stands out is that today so much “reporting” is actually not at all based on “what one sees” but on what other people say about something seen.   (Yet this has got to be one strain of the way it’s always been – considering ‘shipping news’ colonial / empire corporate model of dispatches and outlining what is REAL NEWS in terms of interests, indeed not in terms of eye witness accounts:  E.g. “cotton boats to arrive tonight from Antigua at 21:00  hours.”   Also considering – assenting to scientific claim or theories that one has not personally calculated and tested is hardly objective rational procddure but rather an act of faith…..).  For example – today the issue of reporters using email for interviews; no “shoe leather” reporting, all research done by getting on the telephone and the net, not interacting with people, etc.   Journalism students can’t see any difference between email interviews and face to face encounters.   Does such a definition render most of allegedly hard news reporting today as “interpretive reporting” by those standards..?  And – there’s the phenomenon of people actually going to the J-blog for NEWS.  People reading the J-blog INSTEAD of news.  Just read one article where a popular

U.S. blogger who’s a lawyer admonishes a reader NOT to do that (Along the lines of , [approximating quote] “I’m NOT the news – I’m some guy giving my opinion.  You should be reading the news if you want the news.”)   – Relationship of discipline of economics to this and the fact that some of the most popular J-bloggers are social scientist / economics trained.   Abstractions / patterning so far removed from events.  

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