Below is a response to Clifford Geertz’s “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”. It is posted here for an assignment as part of COM412: Journalism Reimagined.
In “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”, ethnographer Clifford Geertz documents his observations and conclusions about the role of Balinese cockfighting in their society based on his time there in 1958.
Unlike a straight new story, Geertz departs from objectivity and speaks from the first person perspective, clearly giving the readers a sense of how he got onto the project in the beginning when he describes a police raid of a cockfight that he was watching and how he subsequently managed to win the trust of the villagers he wanted to study. This makes his writing personal as we get a sense of where Geertz is coming from and it establishes his credentials as someone who got into the villagers’ inner circle. Also, we only hear Geertz’s perspective on what cockfighting is and means to the people. He does not use quotes from any of the villagers as we would normally do in a news story.
Most of the story is actually an interpretation and summary of what cockfighting is in the bigger context of Balinese society. This is something that a straight news story would be unable to provide. In fact, if any of Geertz’s piece was used in a straight news story, it would have stopped as a news piece about a police raid of gamblers involved in cockfighting. It is only through Geertz’s theorising and explanation that we get a more complete, and even contrasting view of what cockfighting means to these villagers.
While Geertz’s piece does not follow the straight news story’s inverted pyramid format, it is still structured in an academic format, with a proper thesis, supporting evidence and conclusion. In fact, at various points, explanations are numbered so that readers can clearly identity at what point Geertz is offering his interpretation and not an observation.