The Value of the Whole Story

I don’t usually do this stuff on my blog, but this one I have to mention. What I have to say doesn’t have anything to do with the police or who was right or wrong in a given situation or circumstances surrounding incidents or riots.

What I have to say is about journalism and media in this country.

I was a journalism major in college, and I had a great teacher who taught me about things like the absolute necessity of learning all sides of any story no matter what your personal feelings are about that story. I was taught about the ways an incomplete story fuels misunderstanding and division and the ways in which incomplete stories can be used to divide and weaken everyone. I was also taught how much power the whole story can have to change viewpoints and encourage empathy and understanding.

I am horrified every single day at the way the power of the modern media is used to divide and weaken us when it could be showing us things that have the power to bring us together and empower us. It could be showing us the whole story–all sides–and encouraging us to see past the ends of our own noses and understand that ours is not the only perspective.

And the worst part is that we don’t just let our media do this. We ask for it.

We ask for this in our news reporting by choosing to ignore any side of a news story that makes us uncomfortable or challenges our own views. We don’t want to have to accept that maybe we are wrong about something. Or worse, accept that maybe someone else is right. We don’t want to be reminded that the “other side” is made up of people, just like us, with families and feelings and valid opinions with valid reasoning of their own.

Ask yourself how many pictures you’ve seen recently of riots and looting. How many images of destruction and fighting. And not just about recent events in Baltimore. Think about world events, too. Did you pick up the paper? Click the link? Watch the video? And what about those papers and links and videos that show another perspective–maybe one that doesn’t quite fit with what you think you already know or believe?

We ask for sensationalism every day by choosing to only pay attention to the stories that focus on destruction and death. We demand excitement before we will spend our limited attention spans on anything as frivolous as the news, right? And we ask for a one-sided view of events by choosing only those sources that fit with our established thoughts and beliefs.

The unfortunate side effect of this is the feeling that is generated among people with something to say that violence and destruction are the only ways to get noticed. The only way to get attention for issues that need dealt with and problems that need solved. “If it bleeds, it leads,” as the saying goes, and people are conditioned by the way news is handled to believe it.

The viral image below shows citizens coming together. They are standing together as a community instead of tearing their community apart. They are doing so peacefully, and I did not get it from the usual, “official” media sources. I saw this on social media, not on any news outlet. Why? Because that news doesn’t get ratings or sell copies. Because we, as a society, have decreed that we save our attention for violence and spectacular exhibition. And nudity. Don’t forget the nudity.

There’s none of that in this picture.

This is a picture of people making a simple and powerful statement by doing what they think is right. It is a picture of people saying, peacefully and in no uncertain terms, “Enough. Here is the line, and we are it.”

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How might news coverage change if we showed our media and news outlets that this is worth our time and attention? How might our world change if we showed it that peaceful statements can move us to action? What if we show them that we want to see all the sides of a news story?

The bad/scary/ugly/sensational parts of the news are still news. They happen, and they have a significant impact on the world and are, therefore, important. But they are not the whole story. We really should be demanding more of both our media and ourselves.

We should be looking for those parts of any news story that make us uncomfortable or challenge our views. We should be looking for those parts of the story that make the “other side” more real, more human, more relatable. We should be demanding the same from those we trust to provide us with something as important–as absolutely critical–as the news.

Incomplete reporting creates an “us and them” mentality. Seeing the whole story might just remind us that the world is really filled with just “us”.

Confession time

OK, I have a confession to make.

I LOVE my WordPress stats page. It isn’t that I have huge amounts of traffic in my little corner of the internet and like to see all the big numbers and so forth. I have a few visitors who regularly stop by and see what I’m up to, but overall, my actual numbers are pretty modest.

No – the thing I love so much about my stats page is that little section that tell me where my visitors are from.

I routinely get visitors from here in the United States, of course, though I do wish the stats page would show me where in the US everybody is (Hawaii? Alaska? Georgia? Right next door?) I have some regular visitors in the UK (love my British peeps!) and Ireland (What’s the craic?). I also have someone who peeks in from Germany once in a while (Guten tag!)

And yesterday?

Spain!

Little things like this excite me and totally make my day. So next time you stop by – even if you see this post a year from now and think I’m no longer paying attention – just pop a little note into the comments.

Tell me where you are.

Tell me the best part about being there.

Or just say, “¡Hola!”

I love that stuff. You will single-handedly make my day no matter where you are!

Happy dance!!!

So I was checking out this great blog I follow — Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing — and as I’m reading I notice my name in the left-hand sidebar.

(Go on, check it out. The Pick and Mix page is here … I’ll wait…)

They picked me as their blogger of the week! I did a happy dance all around my kitchen!

Opening books

As an avid reader, I look forward to opening a new book.  I love the smell of the paper.  The feel of the pages.  I’m careful to not bend the cover or crease the spines.

Don’t get me wrong – I will always love and buy “physical” books, but I’m no hard-copy snob.  I love “opening” e-books almost as much.  Though I do live in fear of my phone battery dying… Always at the best part, right?

It doesn’t matter which type of book I’m opening, the experience is the same for me.  I’m not opening a book.  I’m opening a whole new world.  I’m opening another person’s imagination, stepping inside, and having a look around.

How exciting is that!

There’s a meme (several actually) that goes around Facebook pretty regularly that says, “If you think reading is boring, you’re doing it wrong.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Become one of the helpers

I don’t want to post on anything that starts with N today.  I have something more important on my mind today.

A good friend of mine has a 13-year-old daughter.  She’s a sweet kid – big smile, big heart.  I love her to pieces.  My friend posted on Facebook today that her daughter has developed extreme crowd anxiety.  She becomes shaky and pale and has difficulty not becoming hysterical.  After discussing this with her daughter, my friend discovered the cause of her daughter’s extreme anxiety.

What she learned is that there is a whole generation of kids who have grown up with not only the War on Terror but the threat of shootings and bombings in any given public place.  Places that should be fun.  Places that should be safe.  My friend’s daughter isn’t the only one.  Some of her daughter’s friends exhibit the same issues.

Before I go any further, let me just say that this is not a post about gun control or anything like that.  I have opinions just like anyone else.  This is not the place for them.

Even here in Joplin, the increase in severe weather in recent years and our experience with the devastating force that is an F5 tornado has caused many people – not just kids, though it is most noticeable among them – to have severe anxiety associated with stormy weather.

Someone posted a great idea in response to my friend’s story.  This person suggested that the best way for kids to deal with their fear of something bad happening is to learn how to respond to scary situations appropriately and (most importantly) helpfully.

Teach kids – teach EVERYBODY – to be among the helpers.  Knowledge is power, and once you have it, there’s less to be afraid of.

FEMA offers CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training in every state.

Please check out the Citizen Corps website.  There’s information on CERT training as well as planning and preparing for a disaster.

Killing Characters

 

It is a common misconception that writers create their stories. We create our characters, and we create the world they will inhabit. But the stories? They kind of create themselves when we turn our characters loose in the world we made.

Characters, if developed well, will always behave true to their nature. Characters may change over the course of the story, of course. They might become more compassionate or more daring or less reckless, they gain information or experience misunderstandings that effect their actions.  Characters are people, too.

So I’m faced with a decision that I’m sure every fiction writer has to make at some point.  I have a character that I might have to kill.  The character’s nature and decisions through the story will lead up to one big decision.  Choose one path, the character dies, choose another, and the character lives.

The dilemma is this:

If I kill my character, my readers might hate me.  It’s a likeable character, and one that, if I write the story well, people will become attached to. If I don’t kill the character, though, I might not be staying true to the demands of the story.

I’m still early enough in the writing that things could change.  As I said, the stories create themselves, and this one is still creating.

The writer is just along for the ride.

H is for… ?

a-to-z-letters-hI’ll be honest with you.  I’ve got nothing for “H” today.  I’ve been thinking about all the things I like that start with the letter H, but I haven’t hit on anything that screamed “Blog post!” at me.  I even resorted to flipping through the H section dictionary.

I could post about “History”, but, of course, that’s a subject that can fill entire libraries.  I already told you a little about how I came to choose historical fantasy as my writing genre (see my April 6 post “Faeries, Flappers, and Flights of Fancy”).

I could post about herbs – one of my great loves! – but I could go on and only scratch the surface of that subject, too.  Growing, cooking uses, medicinal uses, folk uses and beliefs, teas, tinctures, aromatherapy…  Don’t get me started!  I promise, I’ll put up a little something herb-related now and then (on “V” day, I’ll be sharing my super-awesome, better than Vick’s, all-natural vapor rub recipe).

I could write a post about how I try to be Honest in my writing, but I hope you are already getting that from what I’ve written so far.  I could write about Hope or Home or Help (I can always use a bit) or Halloween (though that last seems a bit out of season for an April blog post).

So I think I’ll leave this post as it is: a picture of what I go through trying to decide on blog posts.  Sometimes I hit on something right away that strikes my fancy and about which I have something to say, and sometimes (like today) I come up with a bit of a ramble that doesn’t accomplish much beyond letting you in on how I think.