Friday, March 25, 2005

Super-Sizemore

It is ironic that Tom Sizemore was Rex Harper in last year's Paparazzi. The film largely failed to capture the public's imagination. It had a budget of approximately $20 million and failed to cross that financial threshold in domestic Box Office.

Why is it ironic you ask? That's easy. In that film Tom Sizemore played a sinister and invasive Paparazzi "leader" named Rex Harper in the film. He was the villain who has so invaded "Bo Laramie's" private life that Bo's family is put at risk. You see Rex and his crew won't give Bo any privacy. In real life it is Tom Sizemore who is not being given any privacy. Local television news and the LA Times have reported in great detail the specifics of Tom Sizemore's court appearance yesterday (March 24, 2005).

Initially the thought of someone who has been convicted of committing a crime, and is a public figure, isn't surprising. What I find inappropriate is the tone of the coverage. The Times, and local TV reporters, aren't content to report the events without throwing in their two cents worth of opinion. Conservative's often lament the "subjective liberal bias" against conservative politicians and politics in the media, but what I think they (and we) should be more concerned with is "freewheeling subjective opinion insertion." It is one thing for an opinion column to have opinions, it should and everyone knows an opinion page contains opinions. It says so on the top of the page. It is quite another thing for reporting which claims to be, at its best, the accurate recording of information to have evaluative comments embedded within it.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about from the Sizemore story:

Sizemore, 43, pleaded for leniency and sobbed as he apologized to his family and friends for embarrassing them with his past conduct involving drug use and allegations of domestic violence against women...
But when he emerged from the courtroom moments later, Sizemore was beaming as though he had just won an Academy Award...


And my favorite:
It was a Hollywood moment on a morning filled with them.

Even the judge seemed to have caught the bug.


The first sentence of the first blockquote above is accurate and largely without opinion insertion, he did plead for leniency and sob, but it is giving me too much information. I don't need a "compelling narrative," I read novels for that, I need accurate information. But the author had to make sure to contrast Sizemore's after the trial atttitude with Sizemore's after trial demeanor. I can almost feel the underlying disdain and the not so hidden innuendo that Sizemore was acting in the courtroom. What seals my view is the "Hollywood moment" quote. Sure, it's pithy and fun to read. And it belongs in an opinion column. Reporting should be that, reporting, not biography, not narrative, not storytelling. But it seems that the modern reporter wants to be recognized for the "narrative quality" of their writing as well as their ability to cover important "content." If you want to be praised for your skill with prose write novels. If you want your opinions to be valued, write opinion columns. If you want to include snide comments, attribute them to someone else. An example would be:
One onlooker thought that this resembled a scene from a Hollywood movie, saying "This morning has been filled with them."


The writer could have still have content expressing their opinion, but without falling out of "reporting" mode.

I also feel slightly sorry for Sizemore. Don't get me wrong, if he's guilty of Assault/Battery he should be punished. What I feel sorry for, is the fact that this man who is struggling with addiction is having those struggles broadcast to the world. He is shown as both pathetic (particularly the televised court scenes) and as a liar and fraud. Imagine he begins to deal with his addiction, something that will be necessary if he wants to save his own life from a terrible and lethal spiral. Where is he going to find the much needed sympathy and support an addict needs to overcome addiction? How does his portrayal affect his psyche? In otherwords, by making him look like a pathetic lying fraud, is the media contributing to the emotional state which leads him to flee to drugs?

Report the facts. Don't villify or praise the subject.
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