Sunday, June 23, 2013

Amy Winehouse and the journalistic hook

The Observer Magazine has a lovely interview with Amy Winehouse's brother, Alex, today.

I'm not sure if it's just me, but while the piece by Elizabeth Day is nicely handled, the sell feels a little misjudged.

You might have seen the promotional tweet:

Or, possibly, read the standfirst:
As an exhibition opens about her family life, Amy Winehouse's brother Alex talks in his first major interview about the girl who became a superstar – and reveals what he thinks really killed her
This focus on "what he thinks really killed her" is both grisly and disingenuous. As a way of attracting attention to the piece, it might work - A killer unmasked! A challenge to the coroner? - but in effect it distorts what Alex was trying to say, and depicts an important and personal observation into a false promise of a CSI plot twist.

Maybe I should say 'spoilers' here:
"She suffered from bulimia very badly. That's not, like, a revelation – you knew just by looking at her… She would have died eventually, the way she was going, but what really killed her was the bulimia… Absolutely terrible."

What does he mean by that? "I think that it left her weaker and more susceptible. Had she not had an eating disorder, she would have been physically stronger."
I wouldn't suggest that The Observer have added something that wasn't in Alex's words, but by stripping them from the context and using them as a hook, they've not really represented them that fairly. Something important and subtle has been lost for the sake of a grab.

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