Friday, September 18, 2009

Making Unity Sexy: A Challenge to Today's Reporters


Conflict, we know, is the sexy stuff of storytelling. If it bleeds, it leads, say the editors. Tension lures in readers, takes us on a journey that keeps us glued to the set so that we'll hang in there till the end. After all, we don't watch action-adventure flicks to know how they'll end; we watch to see how the hero will get out of each pickle.

Little wonder then that reporters today cover the fringes as primary stories. The finger pointing, the opposite perspectives, the marginalizing—and hence the polarizing—seem to make for more interesting copy. It's sexy. So one day we get, for instance, full coverage of the folks on the Right who think the folks on the Left are nuts because of health care reform; the next day we get coverage of leaders from the Left who think the folks on the Right are nuts because of, well, how they view health care reform. And as a result, it spills over into town halls, rallies and marches until it erupts into screaming and shouting . . . that again makes for good stories, but does little to help us appreciate our diversity.

Surely, though, people somewhere are having conversations beyond their narrow Right and Left opinions. Surely some political leaders are reaching across the aisle, genuinely trying to consider how they can work together. Surely unity—somehow, somewhere—is happening.

Why, then, don't we hear many of these stories? Why don't we read the "Against All Odds" tales of folks who, in spite of their differences, agree to keep the conversation going because they know they'll be better off as human beings for listening to different perspectives? I'm certain they're out there.

So this is my challenge to reporters everywhere: PLEASE find the stories of the folks who are as determined to shake hands with others who might see things differently as the pundits are to polarize. The conversations these brave folks are having, who dare to work together, must certainly provide important insights for the rest of us who are tired of the polarizing and finger pointing. Please, Mr. and Ms. Journalist, give us the stories we need to better understand each other's perspective on issues (especially) like health care, and the economy, and so on, so that we'll make some progress toward civility and grace, the stuff that makes nations great. The stuff that unifies.

Surely, that's a story all of us would read, one that's essential and sexy, and most importantly, life-changing.

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