I have noticed a tiresome trend in journalism. Journalists embark on ‘alternative’ or counter cultural adventures and then report on how ridiculous it is.
A great example – one of seen done a few times – is social nudism. A reporter will spend a day or a weekend at a nudist resort and then report on the experience. Inevitably, the journalist stumbles through the experience like a fish out of water, and then reports on how odd everyone around her is. The salacious topic draws loads of readers and the juvenile observations of the author allows the readers to smugly disregard anyone with a lifestyle different than their own.
The most recent example of this ‘experiential journalism’ appeared recently on Slate. The writer visits an unnamed nudist resort for a day and then writes about the experience. In a nutshell, it is three pages of ‘boy… its weird seeing people naked’. Give it s read – I’ve linked it above – but most of the article is her describing how uncomfortable she feels seeing people do things naked, intermixed with a bit about how she would not like to do these things naked.
Why does this offend me? Two reasons: Firstly, experiential journalism is suppose to expose people to experiences different from their own, in the hopes that the reader can better understand other people in different circumstances, from a first person perspective. It only works if journalists go in with an open mind and an inherent respect for those who seek out different experiences. This writer does neither – with no research, she writes a fluff piece that does nothing more than expose her ignorance of social nudism and reinforces readers’ biases that nudists are a little loopy. This is awful journalism and Slate should be above it.
Finally, the biggest reason I don’t like this. It works. The article was shared over 4,000 times on Facebook. I guess nudity sells… who knew?