Journalism as Narrative

One cannot spend long listening to mainstream media without realising that a “narrative” is being laid out. By narrative, I mean a conversation, a view point, a focus upon a certain perspective [character] with a certain struggle [crisis] and seeking a certain resolutions [catharsis].

This is well acknowledged by commentators. Factoids are thrown about such as “more people are killed by obesity than by shark attacks” or “more people die walking down the street than in plane crashes” or most significantly, “more people die daily from prevantable diseases and hunger than in terrorist attacks.” Yet the media has a narrative to tell and mostly this narrative is driven by what the audience, the readers, are interested in reading or viewing. Unashamedly appealing to the feelings and fears of the viewers, media will focus on the shark attacks, the plane crashes and the terrorist attacks. The viewer must supplement their world knowledge through self study.

This is a curiousity to note, especially because many of us state, “I’d rather read the news than fiction, I think the real world is interesting enough” or ” I want fact not fiction”. Journalists are bound to various codes of conduct not to perjure or malign people or companies unduly or not to insert opinion into their pieces, retaining an impartial reporterly perspective. However, the bias evident in what is reported and how it is reported is remarkable and one that the user generates.

Brandon Stanton, photographer of the wildly successful blog “Humans of New York” gave this brilliant TEDx talk in 2013. He highlights how the media selects their content and how this content does not reflect the greater reality of life. His blog seeks to counter that and tell a different narrative.

Fiction is simply another form of narrative. Let us read with discernment.

The Soul of Relationship

One regularly hears the epithet that ‘communication is key’ to relationships.  If you can truly listen, hear each others perspective, express your views – you can evade a multitude of woes. Learn each others love language, learn each others Myer-Briggs personality profile, understand each others’ family of origin narrative and so on.

I recently complimented a 5 year old girl on her beautiful hair and dress, calling her a princess. Her aunt promptly added, ‘and we love you for your brains and personality darling.’ Yes – I was a child who hated that adults cou-cou’d children, clucking to them and calling them cute! Especially as a girl, it becomes frustrating to not be asked about ambitions and thoughts. How have I slipped into being that adult?

If stories express a voice, the perspective of characters, then they contribute to our human conversation.  The more we read stories, the more communication we receive, the more we are forced to hear the perspective of others and to empathise and understand.

However, the more stories we read from the same kind of people – the more we hear one voice. Do we find ourselves sliding into stereotypes and views of gender, race, social class, political view, religion? Stories need a multitude of voices from a multitude of people and persepctives to contribute to our conversation.

To flourish as humans, our happiness stems from good communication, and for this to occur we need to hear and listen to good stories.