Sunday 27 October 2019

Journalistic integrity v famil-iarity

Selective memory. It's a phrase that's usually said with a bit of a sneer, isn't it? Raised eyebrow perhaps, a sense of 'pft'. Certainly, it casts suspicion over what's been described by - always - some other person. Which makes it all the more odd, that people bother to read the travel sections of newspapers and magazines, because without exception (and I speak with authority here) the experiences described in those stories are never truly factual.

The weather, the food, the locals, the scenery, the architecture: to read these stories, you would think that the writers are celebrating some Disneyesque Technicolor marvel where everything went smoothly and it was all unalloyed enjoyment from triumphant breakfast Bircher muesli to sinking into a silk-covered, lavender-scented goose down pillow at the end of a day filled with delight. Well, pft.
Case in point: my story in today's paper about the Silversea Aegean cruise I went on a few years ago. Everything in it is correct; but there's an awful lot missed out, or glossed over. Mostly it's tedious group-travel stuff, like queues and waiting and irritating fellow passengers; some of it is personal - bad mood, crabby partner, headaches, sore feet and not enough sleep. The weather was initially disappointing, there were ugly ports, litter and graffiti, crowds, beggars and smells. And, though this would only apply to travel writers, there's the lack of novelty, the here-we-go-again thing, jaded and jaundiced and totally missing what used to be the thrill of getting all this stuff for free.

Some of those criticisms are in my blog here; all of them are in my notebook. But very few of my disappointments got into the story, so at this point you would be justified in feeling cynical and accusing me of deliberately selective memory, as above, my journalistic objectivity having been bought off by the provider of the famil. 
The thing is, though, what I've done in this story is what everybody does, after a holiday. Nothing ever goes totally smoothly, there are always bad days, bad moods, bad weather; but once we're home, unless something went dramatically wrong (like dislocating a shoulder, for example...) we only focus on the good bits. And those are the ones we tell people about, and, in the end, are all that we genuinely remember ourselves.

Selective memory is a good thing, actually, in a much more general sense. The human race would have gone extinct without it; because what woman, with an undimmed memory, would ever submit a second time to giving birth?

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