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					The Art of Reportage
The genre of literary reportage is situated between journalism and literature.
It has in common with journalism its relation to actuality. Reportage refers to
cultural and social reality, past developments, and current affairs.
Good journalism interprets events by contextualizing elements such as
historical background and causality, presenting readers with material for a
more enlightened interpretation of world affairs.

 The imperatives of mass media, their standardized patterns, their
competitiveness, their permanent quest for the latest sensation, and their
view of information as a commodity, impose tight limitations on the
journalist's radius of action. Journalism often has to isolate facts and events,
sensationalizing and glamorizing them through personification. Likewise,
much of today’s journalism oversimplifies complex situations and their
backgrounds, favoring a trivial and partial understanding. Furthermore, it is
compelled to use a language appropriate for the busy and undiscerning
reader. As a result, it can hardly avoid providing stereotyped interpretations
of reality. 

Literature, on the other hand, is born of imagination, invention, and fantasy.
Literature need not be directly related to real life. Its protagonists exist in a
fictional sphere. Literature embraces images, metaphors and allegories, and is
nourished by the poetic impact of language. Literature uses rhythm.
Literature can use cuts and montages like a film. Literature draws energy
through condensation. Literature touches dimensions of actuality which
journalism avoids—such as psychology, visions and introspection, emotion
and imaginary reality—and is sensitive to the effects of geography on human
modes, behaviors, and traditions.

 In earlier times, newspaper journalism—the written report—was the medium
for conveying the unknown, describing events which often happened far
away. The reports had to communicate a high level of credibility. Attempting
to transcend its own limitations, newspaper journalism was expected to
deliver a depiction of events that the reader couldn't experience personally.
The journalist was a substitute eye-witness. Consequently, his role was to
stimulate the reader’s imagination, evoking a complete, multifaceted, and
lively image of the events reported.

 Later, photography entered the realm of delivering representations of real life
in accompanying written journalism. Subsequently, photography gained a
journalistic value of its own, ranging from serious photo-reportage to
sensationalist photo-journalism.

 Meanwhile, we are witnessing a process of historical change in the field of
journalism. The function of delivering representational images of distant
situations has been widely passed on to television, whose influence is
prevailing over written journalism.

 Today, audiovisual media has become a powerful and dominant force, and
images seem to have become synonymous with authentic reporting. In this
context, language has deteriorated into a mere auxiliary element,
accompanying the image content. In TV, it is the image flow which defines
the length and speed of the text. Images may not last longer than a few
seconds, and texts should not be long or complicated.

 We are exposed to an overwhelming flood of images which trigger powerful
sensations. We have to adapt ourselves to the speed of the image flow. Thus,
TV diminishes the viewers’ habit of, and capacity for concentration,
manifesting itself in short attention spans.

 However, life as a world citizen, on a planet with diverse interdependencies of
increasing complexity, demands much more. This world requires many
competencies of people: to integrate diversity, to comprehend heterogeneity,
to reconcile different layers of information, to interpret context, and to
appreciate historical background.

 In terms of market and finance, technology and media, or mass culture and
tourism, the process of globalization seems to be irreversible. This process
creates a complex matrix of relations. Paradoxically, the ruling rhetoric of
globalization is often characterized by a critical oversimplification of reality
and claims that a homogeneous world will emerge following the imperatives
of development. The power of simplified versions of events upon our thinking
explains why we are frequently confronted with bolts from the blue. Massacre
in Rwanda … Collapse of the Soviet Union … Fall of the Wall … War in
Yugoslavia … Fundamentalist attacks in Algeria … Afghanistan … September
11th —unremittingly, unexpected and powerful historical events spring upon
the world stage. Shocks! And nearly no one saw it coming. How could this
have happened? Later, we have to sort it all out. And sometimes choose
between war and peace.

 This profound naiveté is basically due to two reasons. Firstly, we lack
knowledge of the world in all its diversity, its cultures, its religions, its
languages, its traditions, and mentalities. Secondly, we are also accustomed
to a sometimes simple-minded manner of classifying the world: "The Islamic
world," "good and evil”, etc.

 If it is true that our world will not be unified automatically through
globalization; if it is also true that the major conflicts of our times will
certainly not be solved through a "Clash of Civilizations," it follows then that
we need a deeper, more profound knowledge and understanding of the
diverse cultures. The world requires a "Politics of Curiosity" which will
contribute to genuine "Dialogues of Civilizations."

 Reportage writers, with their immersion in the subject, bring unknown,
hidden or forgotten realities and intricacies to light. By witnessing with their
own eyes and collecting and consolidating a mass of information, in forming a
picture of the whole, the reportage writer can deliver a greater degree of
accuracy than is generally possible with other media formats. This is what
gives reportage writing its significance and authority.

 Reportage writing, however, is not limited to merely documenting events. The
combination of reportage with the techniques and subjects of literature allows
for the creation of complexity, density, depth and multiple layers. In the field
of reportage, creative nonfiction makes use of literary writing by taking
advantage of its refinement of composition and its devices of introspection,
interior monologue, dialogue, and polyphony. Literary reportage can draw on
the visual arts, using changes of perspective, tempo and mood, cuts and
montages, and it can make use of metaphors, parables, and allegories. Thus,
reportage can be transformed into an art—the Art of Reportage.

Source: Ulysses award.

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