Tuesday, July 30, 2013

reflections on injustice.

Reporter Luo Jieqi feels sympathy for the Beijing airport bomber--not because of what he did, but because of what led up to the moment of his death, his suicide. And in her reflection of the stories of injustice that never get told, one question keeps coming up from those around her who beg her to tell their stories: "Aren't you a reporter? Why don't you tell people what's going on here?"

Here's the thing they don't tell you in j-school: at some point in your career, you will report a story that may never leave you. The details, the interviews, the uncomfortable silence that hangs between you and a subject after you ask for an explanation to an alleged crime.

And it will feel like a perverse relationship. Aren't we all using one another? To tell a story, to get a story out. After all, consider Janet Malcolm's opening sentence from The Journalist and the Murderer: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."

But it doesn't make any of us heartless, no. It's gut-wrenching having to watch and report on every detail of a mass shooting or a war abroad. It's gut-wrenching to not react at so many of the stories that flash across our screens.

I will never forget how, over the course of three months of reporting, I realized just exactly how horribly unjust the system really was: that they put one female cop in an interrogation room with you to "hold your hand" while several men grill you on the details of your assault; that the assistant DA dodged your calls for weeks, only to tell you in the end, "Well, he didn't finish, so it's not a crime..."; that your attacker could admit what he did and still be let go with a slap on the wrist because he apologized.

These stories can be told, over and over, but it feels like it won't ever really end--just as the stories of mass shootings and wars and inequality feel perpetual and never-ending. The more immersed one gets in observing it all, the more cynical one may become about the concept of justice.

I wish I had a better conclusion to all this, but perhaps that's just what this profession calls for: loose ends, to ensure we never stop writing.

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