62. What role could and should fiction play in journalism?

Unless you live under a rock, you probably heard that The Boston Globe published a fake front page (PDF here) yesterday, imagining what a Trump presidency could look like (come by my desk to see a physical copy). It’s fiction, and it has an editorial purpose — an intention of raising alarm and swaying opinion against Trump. (I was in Boston this weekend and can confirm that Trump isn’t actually president there, yet).

Put aside your thoughts on whether it was ethical or right for The Boston Globe to do this. Can you think of other times journalism has dabbled in fiction? Do you have other ideas for how fiction could be incorporated into journalism? What would the purpose be? Would any issues arise? Why isn’t this done already? Or is it, but called something else?

Consider:

  • The New York Times is an authority on book reviews, including fiction.
  • The Onion publishes satirical news, a form of fiction.
  • Gizmodo has a page called “Meanwhile in the Future” that imagines what might happen (e.g. “We Just Made Alien Contact,” “We’ve Invented an Empathy Machine”) (h/t my brother)
  • Real-world TV news anchors often act as themselves in movies (e.g. Wolf Blitzer would interview Frank Underwood on House of Cards).
  • The New Yorker has a strong brand in news as well as fiction, even poetry (h/t Peter Cherukuri).
  • In October of last year, USA Today published a fake front page that looked like the edition that Marty McFly had in Back to the Future Part II (h/t Mitch Schuler)

Can you think of more examples?

What role could and should fiction play in journalism? Vote here

  1. Fiction doesn’t really and couldn’t really have a role in journalism
  2. Fiction could have a role, but for the most part it shouldn’t
  3. Fiction should have a role if it could, but there aren’t many meaningful opportunities
  4. Fiction could and should have a role in journalism

New Journalism

Wikipedia

New Journalism is a style of news writing and journalism, developed in the 1960s and ’70s, which used literary techniques deemed unconventional at the time. It is characterized by a subjective perspective, a literary style reminiscent of long-form non-fiction and emphasizing “truth” over “facts,” and intensive reportage in which reporters immersed themselves in the stories as they reported and wrote them. This was in contrast to traditional journalism where the journalist was typically “invisible” and facts are reported as objectively as possible.[1] The phenomenon of New Journalism is generally considered to have ended by the early 1980s.

Can journalists write novels?

October 15, 2012

The Guardian (Robert McCrum)

Charles Dickens began his career as a parliamentary shorthand reporter. PG Wodehouse was a journalist with the now defunct Globe newspaper until his mid-30s. Graham Greene’s first job was as a sub-editor on the Times. George Orwell was reporting for the Observer while writing Animal Farm, and gathering his thoughts for 1984.

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