By Caitlin Kelly
Whether by innate voracious curiosity or decades of working in journalism, my first instinct in response to almost everything I read, hear or watch is to ask….what’s missing?
It’s essential in that work to pay really close attention not only to what’s offered…but what isn’t being said? What does a long pause or silence in an interview mean? Why does almost every American national TV news report lack any useful or meaningful context? I routinely shout at the TV screen in frustration!
It might be a lack of diversity in sourcing — very common.
It might be sadly clear that the “news” item was simply a rewritten press release, also known as a “puff piece.”
It might be the reporter, editor and producer were too lazy or ignorant to dig deeper — like (!?) a recent report on the national nightly news from CBS that urged listeners to get vaccinated against polio (a good thing) but failed to even mention how polio is spread.
Or it might be the creators knew there was a minefield beneath the flowers — and decided to just let things lie.
This was immediately obvious to me while recently watching a new documentary about Leonard Cohen, a renowned Canadian singer/songwriter who died in 2016, but who has millions of fans worldwide. His life never lacked for drama — partnered with very beautiful women, one (Suzanne Elrod) who bore him two children, Lorca and Adam, spending six years in a Zen monastery outside Los Angeles, emerging to discover that a longtime friend and manager, Kelly Lynch, had robbed him blind, pocketing some $5 million of his earnings. She only got 18 months in prison — and he went out on tour at 79 (!) to make back his losses, which he did.
Here’s the thing:
I love his work.
I know many of his songs by heart.
I admire his art.
But to produce a documentary that doesn’t even speak to his children, or explain that maybe they wouldn’t speak on camera (!?) struck me at once as a huge oversight. It could not have been in error.
The film includes many musicians talking about their admiration for Cohen and his influence on them, from Judy Collins to Brandie Carlisle to Glenn Hansard.
As someone from an accomplished family, and parents who were devoted to their work, this hit hard. I’ve long wanted to write a book interviewing the adult children of highly successful parents, and not just “celebrities” like the Kardashians. I know that being the child of famous and successful parents can come at a very real emotional cost.
A little more candor here would have done the trick for me.