#AtoZChallenge: J is for Journalism



Journalistic writing is much more than the seemingly simple 5Ws and 1H. It is about human interest, the art of capturing and then manipulating it. My personal view is that there is no absolute objectivity. Anyone and everyone can explain the who, what, where, when, why and how, but it is through this process of story-telling that the story-teller is revealed.

Indeed, creative writing is all about subjectivity. One’s choice of words — the depiction of a person, a place or an event in this way instead of that — is very much an indicator of one’s personality and style. It is a writer’s baggage, and, ultimately, journalists are writers, too.

Journalists aim to present the facts, but it is a writer’s duty to expose the truth. Both seek to influence their readers into accepting the “reality” depicted. However, while journalists can convince us and shape our opinions, it is writers in whom we choose to believe. The former augments our minds, but the latter touches our hearts.

These days the fine line between journalistic and creative writings is often blurred. Everyday we see news coverage employing all sorts of literary devices — allegory, amplification, anecdote, flashback, foreshadowing, imagery, mood, personification, puns, suspense, tone and/or tragedy — you name it. Think of The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. To some readers, me included, they read much more like thrilling detective stories than coverage of real people and events.

Perhaps we see even more real or fake news reports being used in creative writing. Examples abound, from Stephen King’s Carrie to Michael Crichton’s Next and then to Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Appropriate use of journalistic voice helps to validate the story. Improper or immature use of such voice, however, gives emphasis to the flaws of both the story and its creator.

As readers, we tend to demand much more from writers than from journalists in terms of how truthful and “grabbing” their stories should be. We can easily dismiss this or that journalist as being “inexperienced”, “partial”, “biased” or merely “a bloody liar”. In fact, most of us seem to have a “natural” suspicion and/or distrust about any number of media professionals. On the other hand, we insist that our consumption of literature should be a fulfilling, rewarding, informative and entertaining experience. That is a difficult task to undertake. Even harder is to entice readers to suspend their disbelief that writers are capable of presenting more concrete facts about life than journalists can ever do.

Still, as writers, perhaps one way to achieve this goal is for us to keep our literary voices as sincere as possible. Precisely because our stories are often fictional, or at least not as “real” as everyday news coverage may seem to be, our depiction of made-up people, places and events needs to be as realistic as possible. Otherwise, readers may as well switch on the television, go and see a movie, or even listen to the radio. Think of Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, The Jaws by Steven Spielberg and even The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles. To give readers something to which they can respond with strong and even fierce emotions — that is our goal.



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