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When Reporters Tell Us Only Half The Story

  • Blog Post by: Mark Andrew
  • May 7, 2014 - 2:29 PM

I love good journalism. I started out young in life as a college journalist but couldn't keep my opinions to myself, so I became a politician. But I have paid attention to the world of reporting ever since and have sadly witnessed the slimming down of publications that are now trifles of their former selves. This mission and aspirations of the craft have been slimmed down, too.

But there are things that have always bothered me about modern journalism, to wit: important news coverage frequently fails to explain the "Why" of the story.

They write about the event but not the reasons it happened. This failure to thoughtfully explore is a shortcoming of popular journalism and handicaps the public understanding of the most pressing issues of our time. It is worsened today by media corporatists that herd consumers into ideological corrals and force-feed them a diet of distorted, low-value pap.

The failure to establish why a story is a story came to my attention last weekend when the world was awash in two important topics: the tragic mudslides in Afghanistan and more revelations about sexual deviancy in the Catholic church.

News reports described the mudslides in vivid detail. Major news outlets posted the events under the headings of "Casualties", "Rescue Efforts", and "Reactions". What was missing was an explanation of why mudslides of the scale we saw in Abi Barak are happening. Why has the soil eroded so drastically that it can no longer hold water to bind it? Why are rainstorms now occurring with a duration and ferocity of near-Biblical proportions? We know it was a tragedy. Why aren't we digging more deeply into causes than the antiquated equipment used to unearth the landslide victims?

And why isn't mainstream journalism exploring the causes of sexual predation among Catholic clergy? Ever since I caught the first whiffs of this pedophiliac epidemic a quarter century ago, there have been just two reporting constancies: the Church's criminal resistence to accountability; and the complete absence in popular coverage of why priests and clergy are so attracted to this dark deviancy? Why in God's name do they do these things and why isn't journalism probing deeper into that question?

New stories should not be issues unto themselves. They are connected to a larger whole and exist on a platform of the human experience influenced by the reality around it.

Modern journalism should do more to delve into the questions beneath the stories they write. Without that, we will continue to consume information in a vacuum that eventually will cause us to ask not Why, but So What?

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