On some level, lashing out at a polarized and careless media landscape is merely part of campaign season, an easy target made even more vulnerable in our hyper-connected, traffic-conscious digital age. But underlying these internet shouting matches, we can see a media-weary public grappling with two competing traditions of journalism: the impartial assemblage of facts against the narrative interpretation of experience.
On the subject of reporters and creative freedom, we can look for answers in the reporting of two of our most influential creative minds: Gabriel García Márquez and Ernest Hemingway. While formative years spent in a newsroom profoundly impacted both writers, each would develop contrasting philosophies on the responsibility of a reporter to objective truth-telling.
For Ernest Hemingway, the goal of newspaper writing was deceptively simple: report the facts. As a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star and later a stringer for the Toronto Daily Star, the young Hemingway was said to have a “commitment to an almost Zen level of reportorial accuracy.” He regarded personal columnists as “jackals” and would’ve likely sided with Bill Keller’s position that journalists have an “occupational discipline [of] suspending their opinions and letting the evidence speak for themselves.”
If Hemingway’s reportage draws comparison to the precise targeting of a spotlight, the journalism of Gabriel García Márquez can be likened to immersive theatre, where drama spreads as the line between subject and author blurs. At the age of 27, having already amassed a good deal of experience as a columnist and film reviewer, Gabriel García Márquez—Gabo, affectionately—took a job as a reporter for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. Within a year, he was assigned a story about Luis Alejandro Velasco, a member of the Colombian Navy who’d become a national hero after surviving a shipwreck that claimed the lives of seven other crewmen.