My brother is a journalist. I wonder what he’ll think of this. 🙂
Fred Wilson argues, “No conflict, no interest.” I think that’s right. I think journalism had this ethos of the disinterested observer at a time when it was needed to gain credibility amongst the readership. But to be honest, unless the journalist is an excellent writer, the disinterested observer’s explication of the situation is often dreadfully boring.
Storytelling matters. Documentary is a great thing, but few are compelling enough to grab mass attention. It’s far more often the biopic that tantalizes and interests. And once you have people interested, they’re gonna be more likely to do their own study. [Some folks just won’t; they either feel inadequate or disinclined. Their loss.]
Conversely, the writing of an interested observer can be worthwhile, but you must know the observer’s leanings to fully understand. If I write about manned spaceflight, well, y’all know that I work in it. I quite clearly have a vested interest in the continuance of it for fiscal reasons, but because I care about it—I could make more money on the outside, I assure you!—I also have a passion that, I hope, can be infectious about it.
[And yet I’m aware that I work for a conservative organization that may not react well to me openly blogging my every last opinion on manned spaceflight, which is one reason that I’ve been quiet about many things here. Just get me in a room and wind me up … 😉 ]
So yes, interested observers with a dog in the fight do have plenty to say. They’re usually more interesting than your dispassionate observer—who rarely exists, anyway. Give me the bias…