Thinking right now about the role of humor in “reporting” on one’s blog or Twitter feed. Right now some are dismayed at the sarcasm that dominated Twitter as Hurricane Irene made landfall — and disappointed and bored some. Some critics suggested the social-media platform provided an easy arena for people to make light of a serious situation, according to the latest NYT article.
Humor has always been a way for humans to cope with otherwise impossible circumstances. And yet we are also notorious for pushing the extremes of the joke. As a reporter, I learned to avoid inputting humor into my articles and columns because someone ALWAYS misunderstood or felt offended. As a professor, I caution my students: Humor in writing is very difficult to do well. And sarcasm tends to be overdone and often cliche.
The recent hoopla has me questioning whether humor ever has a place in news reporting, even if it’s on a social-media platform?
And yet despite all of the critics and my own warnings, I answer with a qualified “yes, sometimes.” Shakespeare knew better than anyone how a little comic relief was necessary to make a tragedy accessible. As long as it’s clever and doesn’t tread on people’s feelings. A little brevity can bring people into the story.