Judged By Your Surroundings
August 19, 2020 | View PDF
We recently celebrated a nephew’s wedding.
It required travel to a metro area, more than many COVID restrictions encourage. Fortunately, most everything I was led to believe about the weekend was in error.
The experience reminded me of a another place and time when tunnel vision missed the real event of the night.
Years ago in a different part of the region, I had a discussion with an editor about a previous reporter who was on his way to a high school sports game. He was late for the game because traffic was stopped due to an accident. He came back the next day with some photos of the game and complaining about the delay, and no photo of the accident.
He was so caught up in his assignment he missed what was happening before him.
I suspect a similar approach occurs in other newsrooms. A reporter or television cameraman is sent out on assignment. “Get me some footage to go with the story on widgets in the assembly line!” The assignment requires the cameraman to focus on the station where a man drops every fourth widget, defining his apparent skill level, racial profile, interaction with other employees and the supervisor.
What’s missing is the history between that station and the previous spots on the assembly line. They snapshot misses the countless shifts when that same station carried the team, producing more widgets proficiently or better. The video shot misses the context behind the dropping of the widgets.
Often we allow ourselves to assess a place, and a person, based on a snapshot, and a quick view of the surroundings. We see with tunnel-vision instead of paying attention to the details around the macro-focused lens. Several years ago, I was given a history book, an account of the Civil War probably before some troops knew it was over. Once when talking to a high school class, I was asked which is more accurate, this book or one written 100 years later. I asked them to consider perspective. If you keep focused on one point of the room, the closer you are the details are very real, of that point you can see. Staying focused on that point, the further you step back, the more you see.
Maybe part of the problem with today is we are too focused. We don’t step back and try to see the whole picture. We focus on what we are given instead of accepting there is probabbly more to the story than one guy on the assembly line.
I have to say I was pleased with the weekend that it wasn’t as dangerous as I was lead to believe. The most dangerous issue we encountered is not getting too close to an exotic sports car at the country club. As I understand it, most of the violent conflicts occur in areas most people walk through carefully on any given day, and even more so with today’s climate.
So the question now is how far do we need to step back to get a clear understanding of what is really happening in our streets. Do we step back behind the cameraman so we have a view of the view, or is it like a line out of “Tootise”: “How about Cleveland?” when telling the cameraman to back up until she looks beautiful.