Round it Out

Life is a story, and that may be part of the attraction to journalism. As we live on a constant hunt for stories, we live out our own, imagining it in words. If we write out our own stories, we will capture the ups and downs and the ins and outs of the experiences that have lead the way to who we are. We will ensure that the true story is told in order to reveal the reality of what life can hand you.
The basic theme of the February 28 lecture was with respect to rounded out story-telling. We looked at tactics by Michael Moore in his documentary, Sicko. This type of film is created to sway an audience and he may manipulate facts to ensure his hypothesis remains true – at first glance. Moore showed the positive side of Cuban healthcare as a contrast to the US system. Upon watching, an audience may be shocked and disturbed at the money grab U.S. healthcare has become. On the other hand, where are Michael Moore’s facts coming from to support the other side?

20/20 aired a rebuttal but they too missed a few points to balance the argument.

In order to materialize what it means to tell a well rounded story, we watched an excerpt of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film, JFK. The story of events that lead to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the possible conspiracy, was based on books written by Jim Marrs and Jim Garrison (who is at the centre of the film plot). This film was not a documentary but every minute detail was researched in order to tell a compelling story that would have audience members scratching there heads as they wonderedwhat to believe. The script was balanced in providing details from all sides.

Unfortunately not all documentaries, films or feature stories are this in-depth in research. In fact, it is rare to find a balanced story of this proportion. As mentioned in a previous blog, there is sometimes the intention to sway an audience to think a certain way, but as ethical journalists, we do our job best when we cover all the grounds in research. If it means going against our personal politics, tastes or morals, we swallow our pride and get the job done.
Imagine someone was writing a screenplay about a major event you witnessed or were a part of. It would be frustrating if you knew that the researcher overlooked major details in his story-telling in order to draw a conclusion.  It would certainly be difficult to appreciate the finished product. When writing or researching a story, think about that other side – bring attention to all sides – and don’t wait for someone to ask you why you didn’t look there. This is how we, as journalists, are capable of providing balance and fully informing our audience.

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