You are right in demanding that an artist should take an intelligent attitude to his work, but you confuse two things: solving a problem and stating a problem correctly. It is only the second that is obligatory for the artist. – Anton Checkhov
There’s no denying the role of media in our decision-making, thought patterns, desires, and priorities. With one fell swoop television can tell millions of people what is “important,” why it’s important, and whether anything can be done about it. The media—television, newspapers, movies, books, magazines, Internet—is the messenger, the middle man between a few and the masses.
As we all know, that line can be blurred. Quite easily. Some producers use their media platform to strictly depict what’s happening in the world. Some use it to entertain. Some use it to edutain. Some use it for solutions. Some use it for all of the above. With so many different methods of use, it’s easy to forget the true purpose of media: to document history. To chronicle a milieu at a point in time. To entertain.
Presenting solutions to a problem is optional, a luxury even. But not mandatory.
With the media’s power and reach, people tend to want their problems and solutions packaged together. If a problem is spotlighted and/or magnified, then a solution is desired. And therein lies the drama. Is the media’s job to inform and provide solutions? Is there a social responsibility element in media? If so, why?
A particular area of drama: editorials and reporting. The former is an opinion (optimally based on facts), the other is based on facts. Newspapers and magazines, for example, contain both, often in the same section. People are generally aware of the difference. Responses to a report are different than responses to an editorial. Ad hominem attacks against the author are generally absent from reports because the author is presumably reporting only the facts.
The same is not true for an editorial. Comments and critiques are generally laced against the author because the author stated his/her opinion. Opinions in our society are open ground. The dominant thought dictates that facts are mostly indisputable, opinions are a dime a dozen.
The problem lives in the expectations of the reader and the misunderstanding of the author’s role (by reader and author). It is a slippery slope when people expect the author of an editorial to point out solutions to the issue highlighted. Solutions to societal issues shouldn’t be expected of writers. A writer’s job is to correctly state the problem/issue/achievement accurately. To ask questions critically. In all nuance.
If there is a problem in the way an author does those things, then the reader is correct to blast the article. There is a difference between expressing angst against the topic of the article and doing the same against the content of the article. If the topic of the article is redundant and fails to expand upon a previously stated position, then the author’s oversight deserves to be called out. After all, as writers we have to be consumers of the news around us. If we’re not, then we are not advancing the collective conversation.
Some problems are better stated with a solution following. That isn’t to be confused with law. It is an add-on, an attempt to fortify a solid argument. A solution is to be concocted by the masses, from the masses. The masses being ill-equipped to solidify solutions because of media messages is a different argument than the masses being presented with solutions through media messages. It’s not only crucial for readers to understand this distinction, but the purveyors—authors, artists, illustrators, purveyors of information—must understand this as well.
Clarity from the supplier induces better comprehension by the consumer. Writing is nothing more than extended conversation over time and space. Clarity of purpose is needed for any successful conversation, even if that purpose isn’t explicitly stated, but so much as known.
I have no problems with extreme or harsh critique. If the article (editorial) has gross oversights in its analysis of an issue, then take them to task. Take us to task. It’s not easy for me to write that because we are a sensitive breed. Writing is our way of taking our naked thoughts, putting clothes on them, and sending them out the house.
If what’s presented isn’t palatable, then judge them. But judge them for their failure to be critical and accurate about the issue in question. For their failure to question easy notions. For their verbosity and lack of clarity. For their arcane vocabulary that obfuscates clarity. For their failure to make any sense whatsoever.
In other words, feel free to judge this piece harshly. But not before understanding the purpose of the piece in the first place.