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#4187: Performance of journalists: Dorce comments (fwd)


In a message dated 06/09/2000 11:18:45 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Greg 
Chamberlain writes:

<< News is, by definition, the unusual, the exception, the surprise.  
 A newspaper or news organisation will simply provide this.  You don't 
 need to hard-sell such material to normally curious human beings out 
 for intellectual or emotional stimulation.  We'll all go for it anyway. 
 This  "imposed" business is so demeaning, as if we're all victims.  We're 
 To read "good news," we generally have to look to things like bibles, 
 books, magazines and propaganda (cheerful peasants in the fields, 
 utopias described in political manifestos or government-controlled 
 newspapers).   >>
Ok, given that good news is not generally reported and for the sake of 
argument, let's say that's how things should be.  Would the TRUTH be too much 
to ask?  It seems to me, the newspapers today are all op-ed and not reported 
news (who, what, why, when, where).  Real TV news stories and the tabloids 
made sure that we get a big dose of sensationalism with our daily news and 
now the journalists have forgotten what their mission is.  It's heady stuff, 
having all this influence on the masses.  You say it, it becomes truth to 
many readers. 

To illustrate:   I met a Los Angeles Times journalist while staying at the 
Oloffson in 1985.  She was there to do a "Column One" multi-part story on 
Haiti and especially the Duvaliers.  While she was waiting for the interview 
to come through (weeks of scheduling and rescheduling!) she went out to 
report on the underside of the tourist trade.  I accompanyed her to Biblo's 
(sp?), a rather tame strip joint in P-ville, a gay men's hotel/bar where 
American gay men could plop down a little cash for a nice heterosexual boy 
(we were most unwelcome!) and then she told me she was going to a Vodou 
ceremony but it was the tourist one.  I told her I could get her into a real 
ceremony (I had just been  to one in Bizoton and found  it to be remarkable 
in it's ordinaryness) but she declined as she wanted some biting off of 
chicken heads in her story.  When I got home and finally read her story, it 
amazed and jaded me forever about journalism.  She and I stayed at the same 
hotel, had many of the same experiences and yet I saw how she distorted the 
events to make them sound more fantastic and sensational than they already 
were.  I wanted her to see a real ceremony so she could help dispell the 
myths and misconceptions most Americans have about Vodou.  Instead of using 
her awesome power to tell the truth and help Haiti's image, she chose to 
perpetuate the myth and sell newspapers.  I guess when you cross the line and 
want to influence people for good, you can slide down the slippery slope and 
influence them for profit.  The truth suffers.

Kathy Dorce