Current events have an elusive quality time and distance tend to penetrate. A recent news story had an unequivocal beginning, middle, and ending. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf began with a drilling rig explosion, proceeded to a tenaciously resistant leak, and finalized with capping the well. A progress report comes out every once in a while about lingering fallout, but the news media and the audience have moved on to other topics. It's rare, though, for a dramatic current event to be so bookend complete in comparative timely proximity. Attention spans fade before most current events finalize.
The Deepwater Horizon spill illustrates a basic plot structure with strong coherence. A flaming ruin and tragic deaths to capture attention, the pathos of oil contamination, heroic, complicated efforts to stop the leak, a global dialogue of blame game, fault-finding, naysaying, doomsaying, and the opposite antagonisms, yessayer progress reports, calls for tolerance, patience, understanding, forgiveness, and other antagonisms from different corners, setbacks, refusals, denials, reversals, before a final outcome that remained in doubt until the bitter end. It was a natural plot, perfectly packaged and well-orchestrated by circumstances, relying on high-concept premises universally accessible to reporting news media entities and news watchers alike.
However, what's the subtext? What does the oil spill mean? What does it mean? That answer doesn't typically, immediately present for current events. Higher energy prices, yep. Lingering financial and evironmental impacts, yep. Personal human impacts, yep. When the short term outcome finalized, the story was over for all intents and purposes for the majority of spectators. Journalism ran its course with that news story without providing an encompassing personal meaning context.
What does it mean? Answering that question is the dominion of creative writers. Packaging events of broad scope and sweep into personally meaningful answers. Answers with specific, personal significance that transcend the individual and encompass large audiences personally. "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal." James Joyce commenting on Ulysses.
New journalism and Gonzo journalism involve a reporter in a story, at least for the purpose of expressing commentary, attitude toward a topic, if not for making the journalist personally the story. Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971, is a signal work of those current event journalism-creative writing crossover genres. The roman à clef * novel is jam packed with personal meaning.
* French term for a novel portraying real life from a fictionalized construct, blurring the boundary between fact and fiction for personal meaning's sake.
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