12 Feb 2012

John Davidson, for The Morning News:

I didn’t leave the courthouse that day excited about having the scoop on a big story. The truth of it all made me want to quit, to get away. I wanted to call the parents and tell them that printing the truth would not change anything, it would only harm their daughter and provide newspaper readers with some twisted form of entertainment. But now I had to write the story. This family had taken me into their trust and asked for this. No matter how much I thought it would harm their daughter and their family, I was bound.

There was a time when I seriously considered journalism as a vocation. I thought that there was a nobility to truth telling and that journalism was as much an art form as any other style of storytelling.

John’s piece serves as a reminder that I would be incapable of such writing, of transforming the terrible honesty of reality into sheer banality. The idea of this story is enough to horrify me. How is it possible to accept such events as normal or commonplace? And the notion that I would be capable of showcasing them to the public at large without some combination of tears and fury?

That was not the life that I wanted. I believe that our society faces enormous obstacles on the way to utopia and I believe that the only way to overcome those difficulties is through direct, upfront communication, but contemporary journalism does not serve that role. As long as the news is exhibited as a sanitized version of information entertainment, it can not be a method by which we rise up beyond ourselves. John’s “Demands of Cold Blood” reminds us why by showing us how news should be.