Monday, June 19, 2017

Humanistic Journalism is about people, not politicians



Larry Crudup
One way we can better practice humanistic journalism is to orient our coverage towards what is most important. A story I did almost two years ago illustrates this point, I think. The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless (RICH) had a press conference to announce the opening of a new building, Veterans for Tomorrow, located in Providence.

On hand were a host of important political dignitaries: The Governor of Rhode Island, both Rhode Island Senators and both Rhode Island Representatives. The politicians were there to take appropriate (or maybe inappropriate) credit for helping to get these new housing units funded and built in the state. Politicians love to be known as caring for veterans: It’s great press.

But was "politicians take credit for helping homeless vets" really the story?

Wasn’t the story really about Larry Crudup, a homeless veteran who served ten years in the United States Army and ten additional years in the Army Reserves? A man who fell on hard times and became homeless and now, for the first time in a long time, actually had a safe and private place to call home?

“When I first saw the room,” said Larry Crudup, “I fell in love with it.”

For this story I didn't include any of the boilerplate comments from the assembled politicians. I noted their presence, but I concentrated on the words and emotions of Larry Crudup, a man who finally received the home he so richly deserved. (After all, everyone deserves a home.) To my mind, the story was: powerful economic forces prioritized almost everything over the plight of Larry Crudup, until one day, against all odds, Larry Crudup's housing needs were properly addressed.

I didn't quite get that story, but I got a small piece of it. And the small piece I got was so much better than the banal comments of politicians, however heroic their efforts might have been in securing funding for such a facility. When we point our cameras at politicians we'll hear about politics, economics and hard realities. When we point our cameras at people in need, we'll hear about love.

The star of our stories doesn't have to be the highest ranking elected official with something "important" to say. It can be Larry Crudup, talking about falling in love.