What The Media Does
One of the few paper magazines that I actually requested arrived yesterday, with an article on misery, company and the Ryder Cup. In it were a couple of quotes attributed to Jim Furyk, quotes utilized by the writer to tell a certain story of a certain moment, from a certain perspective. Both quotes revealed to me another story that isn’t often identified, because it isn’t the main story of the main event. This tale is meta-journalism, the story of the journalist.
When asked if he felt he let his team down by losing his singles match, Furyk allegedly responded “Well, first of all, I would gather that you probably haven’t been on a team to ask that question.” Let me let you in on a secret: the writer’s team history is irrelevant; Furyk is the story. The writer asked the question not to exonerate nor implicate Furyk, but to lay bare the athlete’s emotions at this particular moment, in this particular event. Furyk knows, in his heart of hearts, that losing did let his team down, just as winning did build it up. He knew then, as he does now, that winning is often uncontrollable, as is losing. If he didn’t know this, why would he have let his guard down again with quote number two?
“I’m pretty sure Sergio would tell you that I outplayed him today, but I didn’t win and I lost the match. I’ve had a lot of that happen this year.” Sour grapes? Sure. An attempt to justify a losing effort? Why not! The second quote was a bonus for the writer, as it took the story in a different direction altogether. The writer’s worst interview is the with the subject that controls emotions, that seals lips and smiles with eyes. There are no words and it is up to the writer to create the story as best as one can.
Remember the next time you read a piece of journalism that the writer, albeit interested, could care much more for the subject. Human connection takes a seat behind the story. The writer’s goal is not to humiliate, not to embarass, not to shame. It is simply to get to the heart of the story behind the event. If humiliation, embarassment and shame (or pride, for that matter) are felt by anyone, consider it an unanticipated human response to an anticipated story.
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