100 articles – 'Haunted by details missing in the struggle for objectivity'

26 May 2010

Written by: Lawrie Zion

‘Haunted by details missing in the struggle for objectivity’ by Peter Ellingsen 

I am lucky that I have had a happy life in a safe country. I have never personally experienced war or destruction. I have always relied on journalists to tell me the stories that need telling – the stories of war, poverty and oppression. Since I began studying journalism, this is what has kept me going. I have been inspired to tell the stories of people who aren’t able to tell them themselves.

This piece, written in 2009 with such thought, sincerity and emotion, can teach the reader a lot about the world, journalism and emotion and how these elements interconnect in the media.

Peter Ellingsen, a former China correspondent for The Age, witnessed one of history’s most brutal massacres and he had to report it. But, what I have learnt from this article is that it’s not easy to be a journalist. It takes a great effort to write about an event so horrible that natural instincts would make you want to turn away in terror. Instead, you must record history. Perhaps it would be better to let your terror and disorientation into the story, though. Then readers, present and future, may be better able to understand that these are terrible, confusing and unexplainable examples of human behaviour.

Kelly Theobald is co-editor of upstart, and an Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) student at La Trobe University.

More details of our ‘100 articles every journalist should read about journalism’ project can be found here.