Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Chapter 10: True stories the power and pitfalls of literary journalism

Some of the key characteristics of literary journalism are defined in the text book as:
- documentable subject chosen from the real world as opposed to invented;
- exhaustive research;
- novelistic techniques;
- voice, allowed to be ironic, self conscious etc;
- literary prose;
- underlying meaning

The things that I am concerned about with Literary journalism is when news reporting stops and literature begins in a story? Do most literary journalists look into a story in a different manner and do the notions of basic journalism like objectivity still come into play when the fictional writing devices run into news values like facts and the truth?

To me literary Journalism is a style of writing that combines fictional based writing tools with traditionalised facts to produce a lot more than your everyday or basic news story.
In a way, it might be alot easier to recognise and relate with literary journalism thanwhat it is to try and define it. The front-page story on the newspaper each day that announces, that Andrew Johns has been busted for the possession of ecstacy is Journalism but not Literary journalism. Some of Australia's more well known examples of literary journalism would be John Bryson’s ‘Evil Angels’,and his own account of the Azaria Chamberlain murder case; What I mean by own is that the person who writes a literary article needs to become very close to the subject of thier piece. They need to maintain an objective opinion at bay but still need to live and breathe the story in order to give it its true potential and meaning. Literary journalist Helen Garner’s role in this particular area has provoked some controversy over the years. Although, whatever you might believe or think about the controversies, she is always engaged within this sort of an area, and brings a lot to it in order to produce some of her best works like 'The First Stone’ and ‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation’.
Personally I do believe that the portents for either reading or doing literary journalism are both good and bad. The bad to me is based on my belief that like stated earlier on in my blogs, most Australian newspapers now, are dedicating more of their space to entertainment and lifestryle based articles and theri is less spacebeing given to investigative journalism pieces or to the longer narrative-motivated piece about the issues present within society.

The goods points of Literary journalism is that alot more research is given to it than in daily journalism; literary journalism can also create an emotional depth within its concept which is also something that daily journalism has to avoid due to objectivity and the concept of news values. Literary journalism can allow itself to make a deep connection between readers. "A good piece of literary journalism stays with readers, like a good novel stays with a reader." To paraphrase the American critic, Ezra Pound, "Literary journalism is news that stays news".

But apart from this my great concern is the problems that can be created for the reader, and the numerous amounts of questions that come up after reading a piece like the: how do you know what you’re reading is true, when it reads like a piece of fiction question? For the creater and writer of the piece how doyou prevent yourself from improvising on what reality is and trying to make it sound better? Real life is unpleasent sometimes, boring and not all that interesting , it doesn’t always fit neatly into a three-act drama, not everybody has a character arc built in, and so on. So how is it that you mould these differnet areas? In one sense you may be working to deliver a piece about someones life but on the other you are trying to engage the reader in something which breaks the barriers of fact or fiction. The Readers intrest is always at bay.

1 comment:

christina said...

I'd say that's why the rules must be clear..any literary journalism must have facts as the building blocks of any story, fiction is just the style employed.