I remember when almost two years ago I had to do a comparison of hard news and storytelling. Both concepts were presented in a meaning of dryness and precision versus colorfulness and imprecision. In the end it became a much deeper analysis, which now I want to share here with you, considering how relevant journalism subjects have become in these days.
“Fear & Loathing in America”, from Hunter Thompson, is an example of how the literary technique does not necessarily have relation with the truth. There is a common belief that objective texts translates what actually happened and is being reported, informing better the reader without bias.
By Cambridge definition, hard news is “serious important news that is considered to be of interest to many people, either in a particular area or country, or in the world”. This serious important news normally relates to economic, political or international updates. By this definition, Hunter Thompson article, for example, can be considered hard news, as it deals with an indisputable episode in world history.
My analysis goes beyond that. What is considered to be objective and factual can turn out to be more misleading than an opinionated article. In September 11th, 2001, two planes hit World Trade Center towers, which collapsed a few hours later. This is an indisputable fact, broadcasted live worldwide. During the next days there was a constant coverage of it and its aftermath, which prompted many analysts to state that it was the event “covered for more consecutive hours than any previous event in American history” (Carter, 2001, par.1).
The non-stop coverage guided by non-stop working humans inevitably lead to mistakes, even in the so called factual-based context of television. ABC news, for example, “mistakenly reported that 10 police officers were safe in a basement under the rubble of the World Trade Center” (Carter, 2001, par.7). Reporting the biggest terrorist attack in our history got the professionals emotionally involved (Carter, 2001), which is expected, but also shows how objectivity became easily blurred.
Hunter Thompson article, written just one day after the attack, is impressive by its analysis done in such a short time. That does not mean that he was not emotionally involved, but he was able to surface in the middle of the vicious cycle of hard news to make a thesis about why such a terrible attack happened, and draft some possible outcomes from it, that proved to be accurate in the long-term (Thompson, 2001).
The question that many people ask is if that article was journalism. To answer it, I borrow an excerpt from the American Press Institute: “The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments”. As impressing and shocking as it might be, broadcasting explosions, people crying and smoke for more than 70 hours consecutively does not fulfill this high purpose. In fact, it can turn to be the opposite, making people angry, confused and vengeful. The result is history and still ongoing, with Afghanistan War becoming the longest conflict in US history, without sights of ending soon (Bacevich, 2017).
Bacevich, A. J. (2017, March 13). The Never Ending War of Afghanistan. Retrieved July 19, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/opinion/the-never-ending-war-in-afghanistan.html
Carter, B., & Rutenberg, J. (2001, September 15). AFTER THE ATTACKS: TELEVISION; Viewers Again Return To Traditional Networks. Retrieved July 19, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/15/us/after-the-attacks-television-viewers-again-return-to-traditional-networks.htm
Thompson, H. S. (2001, September 12). Fear & Loathing in America. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from http://proxy.espn.com/espn/page2/story?id=1250751
Dean, W. (n.d.). What is the purpose of journalism. Retrieved July 19, 2017, from https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/purpose-journalism/
Hard News. (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved July 19, 2017, from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/hard-news