April 13, 2008
and I were having this raging debate about what journalism should be. We took the example of the two articles on birdwatching. Some background is required.
had explained that actually, the Economic Times reporter had wanted to do only a general article on how people working in the IT sector de-stress with birdwatching; the article ought to have come out the day previous to the Lalbagh walk. When he told her about the proposed walk, she said she would come on the walk, but could not, and then talked to four people who had come for the walk, who were in the IT sector, and wrote the article, and chose some of my photographs to illustrate the article. This is a valid point...however, since the article was set in the Lalbagh walk, which she didn't attend, I felt that her focus was not factual.
For the other article, in "Mint", the writer had talked to all of us (I don't know about the others, but she talked to me on the phone) and wrote the article, which had a general focus. But the photography for this article was not done while really following birders on an outing...it was staged, posed and shot. For example, the photographer shot us standing at the shore of the Lalbagh water body and looking away from the birds, which is something no real birder would do.
I also mentioned plays and concerts where reporters write reviews after attending part of the performances.
I said that such things were a breach of integrity in the reporting; I feel that if a journalist is reporting on an actual locale/event, s/he should actually attend. If a professional reporter cannot stay for the programme, the newspapers today can easily get freelance writers who are genuinely interested in the event, and will write knowledgeably about it after attending it in its entirety.
But SIG feels that a journalist can take artistic licence with the reporting, and can indulge in imagination and creativity. S/he is not constrained to stick to the facts or be present at the locale.
Her point of view is still unacceptable to me, but it is interesting and I am thinking about it.
I still feel, though, that when actual events have to be described, such artistic licence cannot be taken. A reviewer may give hes opinion of the play/concert...but the facts ,such as the plot of the play, the cast and crew, the songs sung in the concert, the names of the artistes...these must be factually correct and the reporter should have been present there, and be knowledgeable about what s/he is reviewing..otherwise, the review or the article will lack credibility.
So what do you think about this? Can a reporter take artistic licence with a factual report or review, to hold a reader's interest or any other reason?