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Literary Journalism: ethics and laws

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Sam Bliss

on 5 May 2013

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Transcript of Literary Journalism: ethics and laws

Literary Journalism The ethical and
legal pitfalls Strengths and weaknesses Analysis Conclusion Ethical and legal pitfalls Weaknesses Strengths What is literary journalism? History •Also called creative non-fiction, narrative journalism, reportage or new journalism.
•Combines literature and journalism to read like a narrative (characters, scenes, plots etc) for good storytelling
•While journalism focuses on concrete, literary journalism is mixture of concrete and abstract
•Answers journalism questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. George Orwell
Albert Camus
Jack London
Stephan Crane
Mark Twain Critic Dwight Macdonald: Literary journalism has it “both ways, exploiting the factual authority of journalism and the atmospheric license of fiction.” (in Harper, p. 42). Called Wolfe’s work a “bastard form of writing…with little regard for accuracy and too much regard for entertainment.”

We will now consider some well-known examples of literary journalism and its implications. Artur Domoslawski on Kapuscinski Increases ethical and legal ambiguities but also has the potential to garner wider audiences and entertain readers better (and arguably - in Kapuscinski and Frey's case - do good).

One recommendation is to produce more finite guidelines on what constitutes literary journalism and how to monitor it.

If we let the story follow the facts and not the other way round, and continue to scrutinize the publications, the benefits of literary journalism should outweigh the costs.

So, what next for literary journalism? How about comic journalism? By Sam Bliss and David Kim Introduction Relationship between literature and journalism Literature Journalism Thank you Literary Journalism Examples •Writers have written journalistic pieces for ‘centuries’ (Clark, p. 41). Think George Orwell, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and Albert Camus.

•Became popular in 1960s under term ‘new journalism’, which was coined by Tom Wolfe in his book 'The New Journalism'. New Journalism Older Examples Tom Wolfe
Truman Capote
Hunter Thompson
Joan Didion Tom Wolfe "What interested me was not simply the discovery that it was possible to write accurate non-fiction with techniques usually associated with novels...It was the discovery that it was possible in non-fiction, in journalism, to use any literary device, and to use many different kinds . . . to excite the reader both intellectually and emotionally." (in The New Journalism, p. 15). The Janet Cooke Scandal In 1981 a Pulitzer Prize for journalism was forfeited for the first time in the history of the award. Janet Cooke, a young, black reporter for the Washington Post, returned her prize for feature writing after it was discovered that the subject of her prize-winning story, an eight year old heroin user, was a fabrication. Consequently, journalists used the occasion of the Cooke scandal to reflect on changes that had occurred in their field since the 1960s. Janet Malcolm VS. Jefferey Masson A New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm attributed words to an interviewee, the Freud scholar Jeffery Masson, that falsely portrayed him as braggart and a fool. Hence, Masson filed suit, denying the accuracy of quotations that had him characterizing himself as "an intellectual gigolo". After a considerable interval of legal wrangling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a false quotation was indeed libel but in the final trial Masson lost, in 1994.
Malcolm, although more a conventional New Yorker writer than an innovator, was widely attacked as representative of the purported carelessness and irresponsibility of New Journalism. Ryszard Kapuscinski, 'The Emperor' Kapuscinski is the best known writer on Africa from 'The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat'. This was a study complied in the immediate aftermath of Emperor Haile Salassie's overthrow in 1975 by long conversations with the middle level of palace officials, who had not indeed detained. From this Kapuscinski pieced together a remarkable insight into how this semi-illiterate old man managed to rule the large, desperate territory, and to keep power holders in the regions and in separate departments loyal to him. Fact:

In 1993 study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, it found that compared to the traditional, inverted pyramid stories, the narrative was generally better read and better at communicating information. (Harvey, p. 41) "In order to compromise and cover important identity of interviewee, Kapuscinski had to made up a character in order to expose the truth but to protect his source" Questions: 1. What do you make of the form of comic journalism?

2. Is it all right to portray a character using third person accounts…reconstructing dialog etc?

3. Should there be higher standards for newspaper nonfiction than book nonfiction? "We can't invent anything, but we can amplify some of the things only based on it's real event in order to emphasis the point or the event" - Kapuscinski
"Kapuscinski's political agenda made his book controversial but his book was always welcome in Ethiopia for exposing some level of truth but it isn't sure if that was the 'absolute' truth" •Lack of literary analysis
•Inability to verify facts
•Opens door to partisan and ideological reporting
•Similar critiques to advocacy and citizen journalism, discussed in previous weeks

These tie in to the ethical and legal pitfalls, which will now be evaluated. So what are we arguing about? VS. James Frey - A Million Little Pieces Fabricated account of growing up as half Native American, Bloods gang member when in reality, she had a privileged upbringing and never went into foster care. Went on talk shows referring to people as 'homie' and 'home girl'.Now disgraced. Her argument is that she had to anthropologically research the subject matter thoroughly to get the authentic, raw feel. Margaret Seltzer - Love and Consequences His memoir had many exaggerations and falsehoods. Eg. he wrote that he spent 87 days in jail when in reality it was a few hours. Frey claimed that 'all memoirs alter minor details for literary effect'. Aftermath forced his publisher to allow refunds to readers who felt defrauded. Counter argument is that it still has profound affect on drug addiction, for those addicted and their loved ones. Analysis With these examples in mind, literary journalism has the potential to distort history and sow mistrust among readers because there is little standardization or scrutiny. Take James Frey/Margaret Seltzer who ended up disgraced. Most notably perhaps was Malcolm Vs. Masson, which went to court over libel.

Norman Sims: “You cannot verify characterization. You frequently cannot verify dialogue. So forms of literary journalism…present more of an unknown factor.” (cited in Harvey, p. 41). Due to these elements, there is more room for error. Literary
Journalism •Keeps readers interested. Engages thinking and empathy
•Like advocacy journalism, can help to make a difference. Eg. Wolfe’s empathy and use of subcultures meant most newspapers then focused on them too. (Harvey, p. 42)
•Literary journalism informs, educates and is better at entertaining than traditional journalism
•Must be factually accurate and written with attention to literary style and technique
•Editors are looking for new strategies to engage readers
•Can bring the ordinary to life
•“Most newspaper stories miss the human element. What type of person was that criminal?” (Harvey, p. 46) Literary journalism is still confined mainly to magazines (Esquire, Rolling Stone, New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s) But not all agree. "Literary journalists are no more likely to falsify quotes or stray from the truth than their colleagues writing in the inverted pyramid style...After all, 'It’s not like the temptations of heroin.' (Kramer, in Harvey, p. 41). Tom Wolfe, for example, is a strong advocate of only writing an article having actually been there. Strong supporter of accurate journalism.

In fact, they often employ the same techniques as journalists. When published in a newspaper, for example, they have to abide by the same codes of conduct as all journalists. Analysis Cont' Outline Definition
History
Strengths and Weaknesses
Ethical and Legal Pitfalls
Examples
Analysis
Future of literary journalism
Conclusion Sonja Merljak Zdovc
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