An Investigation Into The Portrayal Or Truth Within The Documentary Genre

1864 words - 7 pages

As documentary by its very nature introduces itself as factual, concerns exist as to where the boundary between the truth of subject and the fiction produced by its creator emerges. As anything that has been edited has by definition removed certain aspects and enhanced others, there must be at best an innocent naturally occurring bias formed from individual perception, and at worst purposefully manipulated misinformation. Through researching various sources, I intend to discover the difference (if any) between these two methods making factually based programmes, to determine any variables that lie in the ‘grey area’ between the two extremes, and to ascertain the diverse forms of conduct in which truth (and in turn documentary) can be presented to an audience, and to what effect?
This report aims to make light of certain elements of documentary making that are perhaps more susceptible to influence on the director’s part, and once again explore the effect of these decisions on the audience’s reaction to the information presented.

Corner, J. ed., 1986. Documentary and the mass media. Suffolk: Richard Clay ltd
This book contains, amongst other things, an insightful account into the foundations of documentary, in particular its British base and its early days via the medium of radio. It features quotations and journal extracts, as well as interviews with some of the prominent figures of early documentary programming during the first half of the 20th century, before leading into the mass observation experiments beginning in the late 30’s. The book describes the documentary format’s departure from its BBC London base under the guidance of Hilda Matheson and Charles Siepmann, who relocated their mobile recording units to what was known as ‘the north region’ Manchester, and were the only the BBC journalists interested in documenting the lives of the countries citizens. In Manchester they found local poet D.G Bridson, who went on to produce the first Radio Documentary programs; Steel, Cotton, Wool and Coal, the first of which was met with a less than enthusiastic public response (“Sheffield Laughed when [the] BBC went poetic over steel” The Daily Independent). Through reading the first 5 chapters of this book, it is interesting to observe the evolution of the documentary format and its early criticisms, but what is more interesting to behold is the journalistic response to these criticisms, the mechanisms that were put in place to overcome them that still stand today.

Davies, N. 2008. Flat Earth News. London: Random House Publishing
Flat Earth News raises an interesting counterpoint to our perception of what the documentary genre truly is. The book, whilst focusing mainly on newspapers and journals, systematically breaks down the journalistic process to discover its roots, and perhaps quite alarmingly, its lack of. What have often been described as trusted establishments, dating back countless generations or even centuries are exposed as mass...

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