Unfair Fight: Two Takes on a Teen Assassin: 2.8 vs 8

Ayse Wieting on Rosalio Reta:
Author Empathy: 4
Characterization: 3
Didacticism: 2
Catharsis: 4

Rusty Fleming on Rosalio Reta:
Author Empathy:5
Characterization: 10
Catharsis: 9

Ayse is a documentary film maker who works for the FOX series “War Stories.” (Incidentally, her name is also the product of either some kick ass parental cleverness or something far more lame.) Strangely, as a film maker who focuses on violence and those who commit it, Ayse leads her account of meeting Rosalito Reta by stating that she never thought she would “end up in prison,” especially the maximum security ones where authorities keep…most of the criminals who are convicted of violent crime. Well, despite Ayse’s ignorance about what her chosen profession would entail, she selected a great subject in this instance. Rosalito Reta is a compelling figure of terrifying significance. He was a professional killer who started work at 13. He is also an American citizen.

As it happens, another documentary film maker covered Reta’s story for another major news outlet. Rusty Fleming penned his account for CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 website. Two film makers with snappy names sniffed out the same story and went in with directorial minds and burning questions and came out with two written accounts. Let’s strap razorblades to the legs of these two articles, lay our money down, and through them into the ring! In a metaphorical sense!

Rusty scores the first blow quickly by leading with a rendering of the event that is at the heart of this story, Reta’s story: the boy’s first kill. Compared with the puzzling introduction that Ayse dropped, apparently blind to her own résumé, anyone betting on her breaks into a profuse sweat at exactly this moment.

Oops. Rusty loses purchase with the reader when he plugs himself in a dedicated paragraph, all but musking Reta and screaming “I found him first!”

This is Rusty after introducing his subject but before moving onto why Reta is relevant RIGHT NOW:
Since Reta and I spoke last year, he has been featured in numerous news stories. But I spoke with him about his experience before the mainstream media even knew his name.
Major points here are lost in the author empathy category. Simply relating the facts of your several encounters to speak more profoundly than other reporter’s first encounter is enough. This is a blow to the reading experience after a great lead.

Rusty would have dealt his article a deathblow if his reporting wasn’t so singularly excellent. He moves onto a story of Reta falling out of favor with his cartel (it’s wild, read it) that I could not find covered after hours of scouring every article I could find on Rosalio Reta or his compatriots.

Rusty emerges quickly from the crapper of his vanity because of his massive authority on the subject and a genuine talent for clear writing. Ayse, however, mires herself in contradiction in an attempt to force the story into a prefigured mold. The three paragraph sequence from “Born in Houston…” to “That’s all there is down there” is a phenomenal blueprint for WHAT NOT TO DO as a writer. Against all other facts THAT SHE WRITES in the article, Ayse tries to portray Reta as having a normal childhood—the underlying assumption being that his inherent monstrosity drove him to become a hitman. Yet she leaves Reta’s claim that where he’s from you’re either a cop, a drug dealer, or a cartel man unevaluated. She actually positions this quote, one that contradicts her claim, in such a way that it seems meant to punctuate the story of his life of rejected opportunity. Any claim to logical progression is lost. Ayse simply proves herself wrong about her subject with her own reporting. It’s THE WORST MOMENT in either article.

From Ayse Wieting:
Born in Houston to a hairstylist mother and father who worked construction, Reta said he had a good childhood as one of 10 children. He grew up like any other kid…
…"Where I'm from, if you're not a cop, you're a drug dealer," said Reta. "If you're not a drug dealer, you work for a cartel. That's all there is down there."
BECAUSE: The way Ayse subtly manipulates the way she paraphrases Reta before the ellipsis is exposed by him saying something quite the opposite of what she puts in him mouth. A silly lead is forgivable but this is grossly irresponsible.

Being a thorough liar is important to being a writer. Ayse Wieting, however, delivers here a combination of untruth and un-thoroughness that is shameful. It even makes me think her name is made up!

It was this genuine inability for any story I read—Rusty’s being the thankful exception—to adequately provide coverage of the case of Rosalio Reta that makes his story so engrossing. I’d submit that a reason for Ayse’s atrocious coverage is not just her incapacity as a writer and reporter but her inability to envision a reality in which an American teenager becoming a highly trained professional assassin (and who loves it) is not just one isolated incident. For Ayse, Reta just has to be inherently bad because he was born into the opportunity to be good. This blinder and a reluctance to ask questions on Reta’s terms pervades all substantive coverage of this case that I found (i.e. this, this, this, this, this, this and this). All except Rusty’s for CNN.

Not only is Rusty Fleming’s article on Rosalio Reta the best on the matter, it is the only coverage worth reading. There should have been more.

1 comment:

  1. Brooke Kroeger would have tore Wieting's article apart. Ten language cliches! I didn't bother to count the stylistic cliches!

    By the way, I thought you were reviewing reviews of reviews? Technically, this would be like a nerdy journalism review. I'm not complaining - you know I'm a dork for this stuff. Can you do reviews of movie reviews? There are some pretty hilariously terrible ones out there.