Exploring the intersection of art and journalism

Can journalism be art? Where is the line between journalism and art? At what point does the creator lose control of the story, letting it become a creation of its own?

This week I have been considering the distinction (or lack thereof) between news and art, authentic and designed and unplanned and calculated. Journalism sometimes can and should capture a story as it actually happened. Other times, stories require different untraditional techniques to tell the story accurately.

In my multimedia lecture this week, my professor showed us a short film by Tyler Stableford called “Shattered.”  The film combines beautiful video of a mountain climber in Telluride, Colo. with a rhythmic, poem like narration of the inner thoughts of the climber. As aesthetically pleasing as the video was, I was confused by why we were shown the video: The short film wasn’t journalism after all. It was scripted, created and devised. As I considered the video more, however, I realized the short film captured the feelings of a climber better than any traditional journalistic video could. Sometimes “based on a true story” is better than the complete true story, even in journalism.

Every year Columbia, Mo. hosts two wonderful film festivals. This weekend I was lucky enough to see the closing film of the CItizen Jane Film Festival with the group of freshmen I teach every week as part of my Peer Advisor position with MU Residential Life. The festival showcases a variety of films made by women.  I saw “The New Black” Sunday night, which is a documentary about LGBT issues in the black community. The film’s storyline focused on Maryland’s 2012 referendum that allowed voters to accept or reject a bill to legalize gay marriage. The film was really beautiful. It captured two very complex sides of the issue, and investigated the perspective of a community mainstream media doesn’t always cover. While the film contained more traditional journalism elements than “Shattered,” it still had a number of artistic elements to it. It wasn’t a 5-minute video on a news website, instead it was a full length film.

Last year as a warm-up to Columbia’s annual True/False Film Festival, MU held an event called “Based on a True Story: The Intersection of Documentary Film and Journalism.” I didn’t get a chance to go last year, but the event discussed issues of journalism and film in-depth. The event’s website mentions popular documentaries such as Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and discusses CNN’s addition of a documentary film unit.

This kind of work certainly dives into an unfamiliar realm of journalism. In my class this week, I am working to produce two videos. I hope I can capture the news of what I’m covering foremost, but I also hope I can add the kind of artistic flair that makes films like “Shattered” and “The New Black” so compelling.

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