In my reporting, I will choose skepticism rather than cynicism.
Cynicism, and its opposite, optimism are philosophies about people.
There aren’t many optimists in the reporting world except for real estate writers, maybe.
But, are there a good number of cynics? Oh,yeah.
It’s a big temptation.
Cynicism will move one along through the day. At least the cynic-as-reporter looks for what might be wrong with this picture.
It’s a start. But, it’s no place to stay.
The cynical reporter will miss facts that don’t quite fit their negative viewpoint. That means trouble for an accurate report.
Those pesky facts that don’t quite fit will eventually reveal the whole story if only they are allowed to exist and speak to the process.
That’s where skepticism comes in. It’s a set of tools, not a philosophy.
Skepticism carefully doubts, but doesn’t make a premature conclusion. It doesn’t try to force a story’s subject into any particular mold.
Skepticism keeps me asking questions until I can’t think of any more, and then drives me to call and ask some more an hour later when they come to me.
And that same persistence to ask questions needs to be directed toward everyone, including the reporter.
When I’m skeptical, I ask questions about my own motivations and weaknesses.
Do I want this to be a story about how bad someone is?
Do I want this to be a glowing story about a supposed wonderful leader in the community?
Once I become aware of what I want, I can park those wants and move on. Let the real story speak.
Skepticism keeps me asking questions of everyone and about everything.
There are no exemptions.
And, when no one is exempt from the sunlight, including me, that’s where effective reporting begins.