I start with the premise that journalists are storytellers. If I’m wrong about this, somebody, please — explain.
No one? (Good — the question was loaded anyway).
Then, I’m going to hold journalists up the same high standards that your average, run-of-the-mill storyteller is held to (or they’d never sell a thing).
Rule #1 where storytelling is concerned — KNOW WHO ALL YOUR CHARACTERS ARE. There are lots of other storytelling rules of course — the list is endless and a real chore to follow — but Rule #1 is Characters: Who Are They REALLY?
And by ‘really’ I mean ‘EVERYTHING’.
Any storyteller who says he doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know or doesn’t need to know who his characters are — down deep — is either lazy as fuck or should seriously get into another line of work (one outdoors and away from people — definitely away from any way to write). How can you really know what any character would really do if you don’t know these things? More to the point — without that knowledge, how can you even approach writing them in the first place?
I mean — you can (‘writers’ do it all the time) but that doesn’t mean you should.
Who, What, Where, When — all important. But, at the end of the day, EVERYTHING comes down to ‘WHY’.
‘Why’ is the SINGULARITY of Questions. The First Cause de tutti First Causes. Even in a Theistic Universe — ‘WHY’ precedes any action before creation. The Universe can’t be the ’cause’ of something, it can only the ‘Effect’ — If, say, nothingness was here before, something caused nothing to become all this — our Universe. It may be a ‘What’ — a deity even — but ‘what’ caused that deity to act in that moment so as to ‘create everything’? WHY did the deity do it — and WHY did the deity do it then?
WHY is the Ultimate First CAUSE. Unlock that and the ‘Secret Of The Universe’ is yours.
Which brings us to the question – WHY is ‘why’ not the bottom line every journalist insists on seeing?
Let’s start with an easy one all the kids can play — Donald Trump — and everyone around him — keeps LYING about RUSSIA. WHY?
The Fourth Estate kinda frumpfs around the fringes of that — like EVERY CAMPAIGN IN AMERICAN HISTORY DID EXACTLY THE SAME THING. They see this massive pattern of behavior that by ANY standard is strange-to-the-point-of-DEMANDING-an-explanation — yet shrug it all off as just another peculiar quirk of this bizarre man-child. I guess a shrug is easier than asking WHY?’
WHY does everyone surrounding Trump have this same stange ‘relationship’ with Russia and/or Russians? WHY has Donald Trump continued to lie about this subject and insist he’s not under investigation and that it’s all a hoax?
Why does Donald Trump only ever speak glowingly of Vladimir Putin?
That ‘WHY’ by the way isn’t meant to be answered by scant knowledge, poor analytical skills untethered to facts, and lots and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of feelings. It’s meant to be answered by the Real Deal — the kind of down-to-the-atoms-in-their-marrow burrowing that doesn’t so much tell you who the characters are as inform you of their essence — of what really makes them tick: the reason they get out of bed in the morning instead of just ending it all right there and then.
It really is something a writer needs to know about a character in order to write them. My especially talented writer friends tell me that if you get down to ‘the nitty gritty’ (the actual technical term apparently), characters tell the writer pretty much everything — they seem to speak for themselves even and tell the writer where they’re going and how they intend to see the story end — the creation transcending its creator. Sounds awesome.
In the meantime — I’ll assume that to get there YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHY — why they would say anything, think, anything, want anything, DO anything.
As in – ‘WHY did you do that?’ Why did you kill? Why did you steal? Why did you rape? Why did you lie?
Where… What… When… Who even — It still all comes down to WHY.
And that’s the question American News Media seems to be… what — afraid to ask? Too inexperience to ask? Too INCURIOUS to ask?
I may not be a professional journalist myself but that doesn’t mean I can’t hold to some basic journalistic standards as I look to American Journalism and ask — the subject now being what any of them got into journalism FOR — WHY?