Story about a story

Back when Warren Ellis was writing Transmetropolitan, he was fond of saying that nobody ever expects investigative journalism, because hardly anybody does investigative journalism any more.

I took that advice to heart – when an article came through about a politician affecting shock and outrage that sexuality appeared in Dragonball Z (really only to be joked at – the theme of it is, “look at all the absurd hangups we have about sex”) I thought long and hard about going down there and checking things out in person.

The problem is, Anime Diet does not have a history of doing these things.  Anime Diet does not have a budget for these things.  Anime Diet is to mainstream journalism what a roadside falafel stand is to Essex House.  I really couldn’t do it the way that a journalist working for a big paper would have – feet on the ground, pounding rubber.  I had to settle for digging around online and asking the few friends I had in politics.

I’m a writer.  I primarily review things.  My colleagues in entertainment reporting continually remind me of this fact.  So why is it that all the accredited journalists who got journalism degrees and did proper internships at major news organizations completely neglected to look behind the story on this matter and took everything at face value, while I spent two hours digging through the minutes of the Wicomico County Council?

I don’t know.  At the end of the day, Warren Ellis was right (Michael Pinto was right behind him, pointing out that even before technology supposedly made us lazy, people still didn’t want to do investigative journalism.)  While this was hardly a scandal that I unearthed – just a case of politics as usual – it is astonishing to me how many people read the situation the easiest way it could be read: politician sees something unusual and goes berserk.  Cue moral panic.  Cue blaming everything wrong with society on games, or anime, or in this case manga.  Not that this all didn’t happen – but why did it happen?  Nobody knew; nobody cared.  They had their explanation and would sleep easy.

I was curious.  I looked.  I found.  It was simple.  I’m aware that this is hardly a real example of the difficulties of investigative journalism, but given how easy it was for me, I refuse to believe that the others – the ones trained to nail down a hard story – actually tried.  If they had, they would have found what I found.

The moral of the story?  Always look for yourself.  Always ask questions.  Always wonder why your elected officials are doing what they’re doing – even when it seems obvious.


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s why politicians get away with what they do. While you can’t investigate everything that piques your ire, once in a while you actually need to do your own legwork. It might not be digging through minutes like you did (SpiderJ is eating a yak eyeball as a toast). It could be reading the foundations of what you think your beliefs are, rather than what sounded good and became what you think you believe. That way, when you hear some politi-speak, you can think about it for yourself instead of some auto-response thing that’s been coded into your head. Even when you agree with the speaker, actually, especially when you agree.

    • Indeed.

      There’s a story told about a British MP who sat down his first day in Parliament, pointed across, and asked, “Is that where the enemy sits?” His senior MP chuckled and said, “That’s where the opposition sits. The enemy sits with us.”

  2. Yes.

    Which brings up a larger question: why doesn’t *anyone* in anime do any investigative journalism? ANN does a little, sometimes, but I think that’s mainly of the “I’ll email the friend I have at that company” type.

    Part of the problem, I think, is that we believe the world moves too fast. I have a draft blog post about Japanese anime and manga creators valuing different things than American fans do. Only to discover that Mistakes of Youth posted something similar a couple days ago. So, is it even worth publishing my post?

    I often feel like, by the time I dig into a story sufficiently to get the real facts, the story will have passed us by. And it’s not just the research time itself; it’s finding time to drive down to the library, or make the call.

    • Well, I like to think that Anime Diet does it where we can. The issue is, as you said, time as well as money.

      It’s also impossible to tell beforehand when it’s worth digging; it’s usually not, and when you get nothing you can’t exactly run an article about how you looked really hard and got nothing. I only know for sure that nobody else dug behind this story because facts were comically easy to find.

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