I've been deeply interested in events in Iran, and even wrote a couple of posts over on Human Transit about it. Today I was especially moved by Roger Cohen's NYT column, reported, illegally, from the streets of Tehran. Matt Steinglass praised Cohen's column as well, and noted that "journalism is increasingly being pushed in the direction of eliminating the barrier between reporting and opinion."
What would reporting look like? Well, a reporter would go out and interview people and get their individual stories, to give the events a human face. But we don’t need reporters for that; the people are doing that themselves, twittering and uploading videos. These masses of raw witnessing, unshaped by any reporter's judgment, are the closest thing to truth we're going to find in this situation. And yet every one is a point of view. I have to admit I prefer looking through them myself, finding the voices that speak to me, rather than trusting a reporter to make that judgment.
A reporter would also try to tell us what’s “really” happening in the big picture, but in this situation their “reporting” would really just be speculation. The better kind of reporting, such as Cohen's column, would project the reporter’s knowledge of history onto the current event and form a reasonable speculation. We’re getting that from the BBC, NYT etc, but it’s not very satisfying. I submit it’s not satisfying because we can all tell this event is unprecedented, that nobody involved knows what’s really going on, and that the essence of the event lies in that uncertainty.
In such a situation, subjectivity rules. The individual acts of witnessing, what we’re getting via twitter and YouTube, really are the only story. And Cohen tells his well.
So I’m not sure how we’d separate “reporting” from “opinion” here, and I’m not sure we should want to.
UPDATE: Matt Steinglass seems to embrace the dissolution of categories in a later post: "I believe that in the new Internet age all of the arbitrary categories into which we have subdivided our personalities are being blown away by pure technological weltgeist. If the events in Iran move any actual rock artists to want to write serious reflective journalism on their blogs, I encourage them to do that as well, and judging by Roger Cohen’s latest amazing column I imagine that when he gets back he may need to get some stuff off his chest via some heavy interpretive dancing."