Through the years, your GetReligionistas have gone out of our way to note that it’s a good thing, every now and then, for journalists to end up on the other side of a reporter’s notebook or camera lens.
This can be a sobering experience, in large part because it helps us realize the kinds of decisions that journalists get to make when editing the statements and information offered by other people. It is hard for working journalists to realize what it is like to be, using that crucial Poynter.org term, the “stakeholders” whose lives have to some degree been changed by the publication of a story.
There are, of course, sins of commission committed against stakeholders. Journalists may get facts wrong, mangle quotes or pull a person’s words completely out of context in a way that changes their meaning.
Then there are the more frequent sins of omission. One of the most common is when a journalist interviews someone for an hour or so and, in the end, uses one or two sentences from an interview without any consideration for whether those remarks have anything to do with the central argument being made by the person being interviewed.
Recently, a BBC crew came to visit Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher at his home in St. Francisville, La., for a piece that focused on the degree to which Americans out in flyover territory, out in the red zip codes (click here, please, for an amazing graphic), feel disconnected from the values and agenda of their national government.
The video piece itself appears at the top of this post. The short note that accompanied the feature states, in part:
Rod Dreher lives 1,000 miles – and a world away — from the partisan politics that have paralyzed Washington DC in recent years. After living in big US cities for several years, the writer and editor for the American Conservative magazine moved back with his wife and children to the small Louisiana town where his family had lived for five generations.
In St Francisville, his family sought — and found — the support that comes from living in a tight-knit community. The desire of local people to come together to talk and solve problems, he says, is in stark contrast to the behaviour of politicians at the national level.
Dreher says America is making the same mistakes that led to the end of the Roman Empire: the capital is too far removed from the real needs of the people in the provinces who feel ever more alienated from their rulers.
And what is the ultimate point of the video, which is to say what was the ultimate point of the Dreher interview?
I cut off that part of the BBC explanatory note. View the piece for yourself and ask this basic question: “What is the thesis statement of this piece, especially it’s thesis about what needs to happen in American politics?”