Freeing the truth by stepping back as reporters

Does what-is-considered-journalism have to fit a format because it’s fact-based? There are a lot of ways to tell the truth. There are a lot of ways to convey the “reality.” I’m tired of the formats of journalism: the article, the video package, the photo essay. 

I’m interested in experimenting with a more sensory approach to reporting, one that relies less on the interpretation and explanation of facts by reporters. There seems to be an accepted definition of what is fact: confirmed numbers, eyewitness reports, times of day. A reporter’s job is to identify what is fact and relay this to the reader. 

Perhaps reporting could be more interesting and expansive if the identification of fact would be up to the reader, the story more open-ended, less defined.

For example: photographs, raw audio, conversation transcripts. Telling the story without prescribing what the story is. One example I love is the New York Times’ interactive feature from last year Finding the Quiet City. The accompanying article relies on traditional facts like numbers, prices, times and eyewitness reports, and I find it formulaic and boring, offering a summary of how New Yorkers lack and crave quiet in the city. The feature, however, documents these sparse quiet places with audio and video and creates a poetic account with much more feeling. Listening to audio of how quiet these places are feels much more true than reading about how many helicopters pass over a neighborhood per day.

This feature takes advantage of the fact that we can take more chances with digital journalism. Internet space is unlimited, free; there is room to make major shifts like this. Also, the Internet supports these more visual and audio-based mediums. And rather than trying to limit the Internet’s power by placing stringent qualifications on what is or isn’t journalism, I think we should shift to thinking about what is or isn’t truth.

Also, we’re in Los Angeles. I’ve been thinking a lot about this city. How it moves, stacks up on top of itself, spreads out. What it looks like from a bike, a bus, a car. The image of Los Angeles tells a story of its own that can’t necessarily be captured by words, reviews, reports, traditional journalism. All we need to do is hold up a frame, focus a lens.  I just finished reading a book called Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles by Alexandra Schwartz. Ruscha has been a prominent distinctly Los Angeles artist since the ‘60s, and he’s a good example of an artist whose work could be interpreted as journalism. He uses a deadpan style to capture his environment and while some of his work is definitely slanted to make his point, a lot of his work seems more true than a lot of journalism does to me.

The book covers a lot of topics related to Ruscha, including Los Angeles urbanism, described as “rely[ing] on vernacular building styles, popular culture, and, perhaps most importantly, experience through physical movement.”

One thing I want to explore through my work in this class is the built environment of Los Angeles, its look, movement, image.

I took the following photos while riding the 204 bus along Vermont northbound to Silver Lake. This type of video made from the photos is a medium I’d like to experiment with more. 


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