Monday, March 5, 2012

Lillian Ross: Hard Truths in Reporting

By Cassie Michelotti

          It is impossible for a reporter to take on the role of “fly on the wall.” In the book Into Thin Air, reporter for Outside Magazine, Jon Krauker accompanied an expedition of climbers to the summit of Mount Everest. Krauker himself was afraid that his presence as a reporter would cause the expedition’s guides to take risks they normally would not have. Ultimately, the expedition’s guides did take unnecessary risks in hopes of getting a positive report in the magazine, and this resulted in their deaths along with a portion of their clients.
          The truth is that everyone notices the fly on the wall, and they are not going to leave their food out if they know it is there. This is something Lillian Ross was fully aware of when she wrote her letter on the rules of reporting. The presence of the reporter changes the story. But Ross contradicts herself, claiming tape recorders distort the truth. Just as a reporter changes the story, so does a tape recorder; just as a person can have a way with speaking, so can a reporter have a way with writing. The story is going to be distorted and the lack of tape recorder makes the reporter less accountable for the truth, with more freedom to write to his or her own opinions. This is a very outdated way of thinking; technology can help to document the truth, notes can be embellished but a recording is hard truth.
          Ross also trusts first impressions, which I find to be deceiving. Reporting is meant to uncover truths, not to base your opinions on a person when they are trying to put their best foot forward. While I respect Ross for her morals and passion for writing, I disagree with some of her working guidelines.

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