Thursday, July 1, 2010

How are Journalists Portrayed?

I'm currently reading The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. Instantly, I was drawn into the book. Unlike the previous book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, this book is suspenseful right off the bat.

One of the things I love is how Larsson portrays journalists and the journalism industry.

Larsson was the editor in chief of the magazine Expo in Sweden. he was the editor of the Swedish Trotskyist journal Fjärde internationalen. He also wrote regularly for the weekly Internationalen. As a science fiction fan, he was co-editor or editor of several fanzines, including Sfären, FIJAGH! and others; in 1978-1979 he was president of the largest Swedish science fiction fan club, Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (SFSF)

His own experiences in the industry gave him the materials to depict the journalism world. And I love it. It's fascinating to read what dirty secrets financial journalists face everyday. It's also interesting to read about how hard it is to stay moral and ethical in the journalism world when it's the scandalous secrets and harsh truths that make headlines. 

The following is an excerpt depicting journalists gone wrong:

In the last twenty years, Swedish financial journalists had developed into a group of incompetent lackeys who were puffed up with self-importance and who had no record of thinking critically. He drew this conclusion because time after time, without the least objection, so many financial reporters seemed content to regurgitate the statements issue by CEOs and stock-market speculators -- even when this information was plainly misleading or wrong.

These reporters were thus either so naive and gullible that they ought to be packed off to other assignments, or they were people who quite consciously betrayed their journalistic functions. Blomkvist claimed that he had often been ashamed to be called a financial reporter, since then he would risk being lumped together with people whom he did not rate as reporters at all.
-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 

What I like about this excerpt is that it's honest. Whether it's true or not, it raises the point of how easy it is to forget journalistic principles when you've been doing it for so long. It's something that myself -- a young journalist -- never really thought about and am now aware of. 

And with the bad, there is always some good. In The Girl Who Played with Fire, Larsson depicts the positive traits of a newborn journalist:

Svensson was a talented writer and Blomkvist confined his editing for the most part to marginal notes. Svensson was merciless in his exposure of the johns, and he told the story in such a way that nobody could fail to understand that there was something wrong with the system itself. It was journalistic work of the type that should be on the endangered species list.

Blomkvist had learned that Svensson was an exacting journalist who left very few loose ends. He did not employ the heavy-handed rhetoric typical of so much other social reporting, which turned texts into pretentious trash.

Blomkvist smiled to himself. Svensson was about fifteen years younger, but he recognized the passion that he himself had once had when he took up the lance against second-rate financil reporters and put together a scandalous book. Certain newsroom had not forgiven him.

I like this excerpt because it reminds me of a passion I can relate to. It's nice to see the feeling in print. I think it's a well-done description of what we all share now.... and hope to maintain in the future.


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