Entertainment and Journalism? Whaaaat?

If you’re from Columbia, Missouri, you know that something is cooking downtown right about now. That’s right, the True/False film festival. It’s 11 years strong and shows no sign of slowing. Which is grand for our city’s culture scene and all the businesses downtown. Aside from offering a good dose of refinement and revenue, it generates something else: knowledge. This is because most, if not all of the films shown are documentaries, offering some insight into a subject not widely shown before. Sound familiar? It’s called a story. As journalists, we’re always told to look for stories. And the more informational or interesting they are, the better.

Seeing as the films that are shown during T/F are considered some of the best documentaries of the year, we should probably be handing them journalistic awards, right? Take this video assignment we’re supposed to do for J2150. We have to get footage of person doing something that we think is necessary to show others. Detail shots, scene setting shots, etc. All of them are visually appealing and informative. What is a documentary without these two components? The videos we’re shooting are simply one minute long documentaries.

Documentaries, just like journalism, can be controversial, disturbing, revealing and graphic. But they are deemed necessary. We tolerate our negative reactions because the information is good and removes ignorance surrounding the subject. We have an urge to be informed, to be generally knowledgeable, and we like the empowerment that knowledge gives us. The power to change the status quo or get someone who can.

There’s also the entertainment aspect however.

I’ve lived in Columbia for the majority of my life, and have been going to the True/False Festival for the past three years, and my favorite film I’ve seen is The Invention of Dr. Nakamats. It’s definitely on the comedic end of the spectrum, but it still peers through Dr. Nakamats facade to see that he’s actually terrified of death, and keeps inventing contraptions to put off that inevitable death. So even the funny stories have a hidden message, or meaning behind them worth examining. They just entertain even more than they inform for at least the first half of the film.

Many people look at journalism as hardcore, investigative work. Which part of it is, and it’s a necessary function, but this is the “broccoli” of journalism, the necessary part that every human should consume to be a “healthy” citizen. But if people are force-fed broccoli all of the time, they get bored, and start to ignore what they’re consuming. A fix for this is a good helping of sweet apple pie. It has some nutritional benefit (the apples) but it’s decorated with sugar and cinnamon to entice the consumer, and reward them for all that broccoli they’ve been eating. And hopefully it’ll keep them hooked and coming back for more. That’s when entertainment is necessary, to keep the consumption rolling. We all deserve a treat every now and then, and a story that’s a bit more lighthearted keeps the cynics and pessimists at bay. One of people’s main complaints is that the news is too depressing, which is bound to happen if we only report the injustices and suffering that take place around the world. I’m not saying add fluff, but at least show that there are great justices that counter injustices, and that sometimes people overcome suffering and make something great out of it. It ain’t all rainbows and cotton candy, but it certainly isn’t all death and disease either.

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