Thursday, June 18, 2009

If Journalists Were Replaced by Poets...

Imagine if the New York Times replaced its staff reporters with accomplished novelists and poets -- if even for just one day. How would the selection of stories, and the way they are told, differ from what is normally reported?

Israel's oldest newspaper, Haaretz, arguably that country's equivalent of the New York Times, did exactly that. For one day last week, they sent their staff home and recruited 31 of the nation's leading fiction writers to tell the truth.

If you don't read Hebrew, you can read more about the charming and whimsical results here and here.

The day's economic news was put in the hands of a children's book author:

“Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points ... The guy from the shakshuka [a popular Middle-Eastern egg and tomato dish] shop raised his prices again ...”
The weather report was a "Summer Sonnet."

But it wasn't all fun and games. As the Jewish Forward reported:

David Grossman, one of Israel’s most famed novelists, spent a night at a children’s drug rehabilitation center in Jerusalem and wrote a cover page story about the tender exchanges between the patients, ending the article in the style of a celebrated author who’s treated like a prophet: “I lay in bed and thought wondrously how, amid the alienation and indifference of the harsh Israeli reality, such islands — stubborn little bubbles of care, tenderness and humanity — still exist.”

Novelist Yoram Kaniuk, 79, went into the field to write about couples in the hospital cancer ward. The thing is, he’s a cancer patient, too. “A woman walking with a cane brings her partner a cup of coffee with a trembling hand. The looks they exchange are sexier than any performance by Madonna and cost a good deal less,” Kaniuk wrote. “I think about what would happen if I were to get better…how I would live without the human delicacy to which I am witness?”
Five staff reporters stood by in the event of big breaking news, but apparently there was none. At least, not in the traditional sense. Those who absorbed this radical experiment, however, may have felt otherwise.

Now it's got us wondering: What would happen if we handed videocameras to top Hollywood filmmakers and asked them to come back with an edited non-fiction video story by the end of the day?

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