The transformation of Roger Cohen by mattsteinglass
June 21, 2009, 12:37 pm
Filed under: democracy, Iran

When he’s out on the street, he writes a great column. Gutsy guy. One notes that journalism is increasingly being pushed in the direction of eliminating the barrier between reporting and opinion.


6 Comments so far
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Provocative post. I wonder if one can imagine, in this situation, a form of “reporting” that could be the opposite of “opinion” as you suggest. The reporter’s pretense of objectivity is empty and meaningless in this situation because subjectivity is all there is right now.

Cohen’s column rings true because it’s knowledgeable and yet subjective — it’s just his experience. But we’re dealing with an event that really has no objective content except these individual acts of witnessing and other people’s response to them.

What would reporting look like? Well, a reporter would go out and interview people and get their individual stories — but we don’t need reporters for that; the people are doing that themselves.

A reporter would also try to tell us what’s “really” happening in the big picture, but in this situation their “reporting” would really just be speculation. The better kind of reporting would project the reporter’s knowledge of history onto the current event and form a reasonable speculation. We’re getting that from the BBC, NYT etc, but it’s not very satisfying. I submit it’s not satisfying because we can all tell this event is unprecedented, that nobody involved knows what’s really going on, and that the essence of the event lies in that uncertainty.

In such a situation, subjectivity rules. The individual acts of witnessing, what we’re getting via twitter and YouTube, really are the only story. And Cohen tells his well.

So I’m not sure how you’d separate “reporting” from “opinion” here, and I’m not sure we should want to.

Comment by Jarrett

I expanded and clarified that last comment on my personal blog here:

Comment by Jarrett

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