A recent discussion in the comments section has made me think more about how context plays a role in reporting. I found two great examples of context to enhance the discussion:
Here’s a piece from today’s New York Times that weaves excellent reporting with context, connecting a Democratic senate candidate with his ambiguous comments about his military service. It is the context, the background, the history of his comments juxtaposed with the his past that have made for a story. What will it do to his future? Who knows, but it’s good to have someone leafing through records and checking the facts. (Mr. Blumenthal responded to the article today.)
Considering the Times is often called a liberal paper by detractors it is interesting to note the candidate’s Democratic Party affiliation. Independent but not neutral would likely describe the Times’ philosophy as well.
This video is another great piece where context fills the gaps.
Notice the Russian official is held to account for her earlier comments. What does the inconsistency do to her credibility? Is the reporter exhibiting a bias by asking those questions and reporting the incongruities, or is it good journalism?
Those are all good conversations to have in the public sphere, where people can decide just what kind of press they want. Does the Russian model seem desirable? Not to me, and I doubt it would to most people.
I bet the candidate from Connecticut, however, would likely prefer a little less press freedom right about now. But the Times is hardly to blame for his dubious statements; if he is upset with their compiling what he said he shouldn’t have said it. Each individual statement, reported as stated and unverified, was not have been news. But by compiling them and putting them in context with his record the paper exposed his hypocrisy. Context sometimes is where the story lies. Reporting isn’t just reprinting what people say.