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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

Tag Archives: truth

In chapter 7 of Fieldwork, Bruce Jackson writes about the intricacies of interviewing. Bruce Jackson is a distinguished professor teaching courses in UB’s English and media study department. He specializes in documentary, photography and ethnography among other things and has contributed to many influential texts that I have read for courses thus far. I’m already fairly familiar with his writing. Knowing what I know about Jackson, and that he has written extensively about documentary filmmaking and cinema verite – the art of filming life as it occurs-makes this especially interesting to me. A lot of the same issues about what “truth” is arise in different media forms. While this chapter was about interviewing, beneath its surface, it was about truth: how to find it, how to recognize it when you do and how to avoid the things that threaten truthfulness of nonfiction media. First, Jackson says, “Having a conversation about a part of life and interviewing someone about a part of life are not the same kinds of event; they’re not even the same kinds of discourse.” This speaks for the artificiality of the interview construct. People get “weird” when the camera/audio recorder is on. They become, for better or worse, the person that they would like to show the world or the person that they might think that you want to show the world. Jackson refers to this type of thing as creating “a parody instead, something that was neither interview nor conversation.” When you allow yourself and your subject to get lost in the interview, forgetting about the recording machines, you are able to have a conversation, and this is vital. Again, Jackson says, “Charlie remains Charlie rather than some other person in the distant past Charlie is reconstructing for the recorder….”

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