[E]very journalist […] at some point will have to face the morally indefensible way we go about our business: namely, using other people to tell a story about the world. Not everyone dupes their subjects into trusting them, but absolutely everyone robs other people of their stories to tell their own. Every journalist knows this flushed feeling, a mix of triumph and guilt, of securing the story that will redound glory unto them, not the subject. Some subjects who have no outlet, who are voiceless, approve of this arrangement, since they have no other way of getting their story heard. But even they will not wholly recognize their own depiction in the newspaper, by virtue of the fact that it was told by someone else with their own agenda. This is what Jonathan Franzen has called the “inescapable shame of being a storyteller”—that it involves stealing from another person, much in the way some people believe a photograph steals a bit of the sitter’s soul.
Speaking at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism last month, David Halberstam struck the chord of competition journalists must struggle with. As a newspaper man who started at the smallest newspaper in Mississippi and worked his way up to the New York Times, where he won a Pulitzer for his reporting on the Vietnam War, he […] » about 300 words