June 16, 2011
Elastic ethics: Edith Zimmerman’s sexed-up ‘Captain America’ profile for GQ
This is what happens when journalists become star-struck.
At first, Edith Zimmerman’s provocative and personal profile of “Captain America’s” Chris Evans—in which she likens their interview to a tryst—reminded me of something. But despite some similarities, my experience was the inverse of Zimmerman’s lusty late-night with the rising star, though the compulsory (and compelling) first person point of view is the same. The common thread bespeaks a broader truth: that there are complex intimacies that develop between journalists and their subjects because inside a finite space and time, something essential or truthful is supposed to emerge. And you have to dig for it. You have to be open to whatever it takes to get there. On an interview with a perfect stranger, you find yourself asking deeply personal questions you might not ask your closest friends, or partaking in dizzying activities that are leaps and bounds beyond your everyday life; there’s something almost surreal about it, the revolving door that casts you in and out of other people’s worlds—but it’s your job after all, so you go with it.
The conundrum of course is a question of journalistic ethics. If you’re too close, if you’re having too much fun (or conversely, if you’re degraded in some way), how can you be objective? And is objectivity the only end in this kind of journalism? News reporting is another matter, but when it comes to telling stories about individuals, it’s always harder to be objective about someone you know. As in any reporting, the pursuit of a good story sometimes obscures proper boundaries. True, Zimmerman’s profile reads more like a diary entry than an invitation into Evans’ psyche, but it is nonetheless entertaining and well-expressed.
For your reading pleasure, if nothing else: