Saturday, October 20, 2007

Getting the Stories Out: Who's Betraying Whom?

I am at the second day of the Watson Institute’s “Front Line, First Person.” This morning we heard Charles Monroe-Kane (producer, NPR) To The Best of Our Knowledge, Tara McKelvey (journalist, author) “Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War,” Brian Palmer (embedded photographer, journalist, filmmaker), Trish Wood (journalist, author)”What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It.” Moderated by: James Der Derian.

I have never seen a conference room so emotionally touched. Half the room was weeping after hearing the first person narratives about people trying to make sense of and do the right thing in the Iraq war.

James Der Derian asked how we might look at this situation objectively. Charles from NPR said objectivity is a farce. Another question came from Matthew Burden (publisher, Blackfive) about whether documentary filmmakers betray their subject. Brian Palmer showed a clip from his documentary on the war while he was embedded. The most striking thing is the context—something you never see on the daily news, even in the wire services. The soldiers were doing their jobs to the best of their ability; the journalists are doing their best to capture the experience to tell the narrative. But many of these stories don’t make it to a large audience. The news is essentially a market, Palmer said.

Is it the editors’ faults? Is it the fault of media executives worrying about their bottom line? Is it the fault of the television audience, not demanding or possibly not wanting to know the whole story?

One participant concluded: "The media is betraying this republic. Drop the Britney Spears and talk to us like we are intelligent citizens."

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