Responding to Martin Voller’s piece on Objectivity, Callum Crumlish delves into what makes Objectivity, Subjectivity, and Creativity important in writing. He insists that we, as writers, ought to use these tools properly, and challenge ourselves to produce more out-of-the-box writing.
THAT’S JUST, LIKE, YOUR OPINION, MAN.
I live and breathe for opinion—it’s the reason I became a journalist. I feel that, if every journalist were to follow the inverted pyramid method down to a T—perfectly—there would be no point in employing different personalities for reviews and impressions.
To me, the entertainment industry relies solely on subjectivity—and would die without it. Reports on press conferences, unveilings, progressing information etc, all come with slivers of opinion laced into the articles—admittedly, sometimes heavily disguised, but they’re there.
For example, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the largest tech-based trade show in the world, is normally covered with standard news reports. Yet with every report each news outlet also enters its thoughts on the ‘news item’. Meanwhile dedicated feature writers sculpt their pieces like finely marbled statues, alongside further, extensive analysis and opinion. IGN, for instance, produced daily videos outlining reporters’ responses to all the big announcements, alongside ‘round-up’ videos plastered across their homepage—all this so the reader would know exactly how each publication felt about the new products launched at the event.
Film coverage is another example of writing that would be non-existent without subjectivity. Roger Ebert became the go-to film critic because of his brutal style and indeed accuracy in describing what made films good and bad. One of his most notorious pieces was the review of the cult-horror film The Human Centipede’, which he concluded by saying:
‘I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.’
ONLY A SITH DEALS IN ABSOLUTES
Although the above examples illustrate that subjectivity is imperative for our profession, I am not blind to the importance of Objectivity. Subjectivity is necessary—integral, even—for many subject areas: entertainment, politics, sport—to name but a few. However, my study of journalism has impregnated my DNA with the notion that straight-up, bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes news reports should be written objectively, in the inverted pyramid style. However, although I keep this technique in my front pocket at all times, I feel that it may only be practical—or even necessary?—during—forgive the term—‘serious’ subjects.
One of the greatest examples of pure, objective reporting that I have been shown during my studies is Tom Wicker’s report of the Assassination of President Kennedy. It is perfect. It is objective description, written completely without bias. And, although it may read robotically at times, it gives the reader exactly the information he-or-she needs as it arises, and completely aids the gravitas of the situation.
Likewise, the reports surrounding the London 7/7 bombings and the 9/11 terrorist attacks follow this simple, robotic formula, which gives the reader the information needed quickly and concisely.
But, as someone who writes news and features regularly, do I think Objectivity is possible? Well… not entirely. The above examples of world-altering news articles may prove that, yes, Objectivity is obviously possible; however, is everyone capable of being completely unbiased and fair? Of course not! We as humans are flawed beings, and we reflect our opinions in everything we do—even subconsciously. I believe—subjectively, of course—that many journalists reporting news are attempting to be as unbiased as possible; but some WILL do this better than others.
CREATIVITY IS JUST CONNECTING THINGS
To conclude this line of thought, I’m going to refer to Andrew Calcutt’s Manifesto on creativity in journalism, and why I agree that, yes, we are in DIRE need of more creative-writing across all sorts of journalism, not just journalism of the literary kind.
The writing game is an archaic chemistry of information and wit—relying on the author to give us, the readers, the relevant information that we so desire, whilst telling us WHY we want to read it, and why we ought to care. A good writer can get the cogs of the reader’s minds churning with but one sentence. The amount of Subjectivity in writing that we currently get is good—not great—but enough for us to start perfecting smaller niches of it. We as writers need to start challenging ourselves in writing—by ‘finding opposites, and attracting them’, according to Calcutt. By finding absurd links between stories and enunciating why they relate, and why they are important. Along these lines, at the risk of promoting them, rogerebert.com houses a string of fantastic writers who string quotes between film reviews all day long—and they are incredible fun to read. Describing James Bond as ‘a suitcase nuke in a cable-knit sweater’ is hilarious, ridiculous, and – in some sense – revealing.
Whether it’s in a newspaper, on a blog-post, or, hell, graffiti’d on a wall downtown: plaster your opinion everywhere, get creative with it, and scream at anyone who disagrees with you.
IGN’s E3 Coverage
— Aggregate page:
Roger Ebert on The Human Centipede:
Tom Wicker’s JFK Assassination Report
7/7 Bombings (BBC Report)
9/11 Attacks (NY Times Report)
Matt Zoller Seitz on Spectre (RogerEbert.com)