Literary journalism: fact or fiction?

The practice of literary journalism has been the subject of much debate, particularly on the issue of truth and objectivity. Richard Nordquist described the concept as the sharing of the characteristics of literature and journalism, to create a factual piece of writing that is rich in character development and symbolism.

Journalist Mark Kramer suggested that this style of writing compliments facts with constructed, sensory scenes. This enables the reader to comprehend experiences and perspectives in depth. He added that the strong narrative voice, whilst effective, has the potential to compromise the objective and professional nature of journalism.

ABC’s The Media Report presented highlights from a panel discussion where Journalists spoke of the implications of this style of story telling within the industry. Margaret Simons commented on the misconception that narrative style writing lacks the objective detachment, which is fundamental to journalism. She said,

“The objectivity lies not necessarily in the journalist, and not necessarily in the final result, but in the method that the journalist brings to finding things out and reporting on them.”

Margaret Simons' work includes stories on Mark Latham and Malcolm Fraser.

Margaret Simons’ work includes stories on Mark Latham and Malcolm Fraser.                       Source: Penguin Publications.

Journalist Matthew Ricketson added that literacy journalism involves complete immersion of the author in their research. It presents accurate facts in a way that convey a depth of emotion that daily journalism avoids.

Ricketson also addressed the issue of truth in literary journalism. He suggested that avoiding the temptation to exaggerate facts for a more compelling story is paramount in maintaining the strict conventions of journalism.  These conventions, according to Roy Peter Clark, must be adhered to when compiling a piece of literary journalism. He said,

 “Anything that intentionally or unintentionally fools the audience violates that contract and the core purpose of journalism – to get at the truth.”

Clark added that the facts must be transparent and revealed in a creative manner without overstepping the line between fact and fiction.


About stephaniebentley

Current student at University of Wollongong studying Bachelor of Journalism/Bachelor of Science.
This entry was posted in JRNL101 Assignment 3 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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