Two Sides to Every Story

I recently ran across a couple of articles describing a joint DEA/FBI/PD task force that busted several people working for one of the big Mexican drug cartels in the U.S. One article was all about how the operation was one of the biggest busts in that state’s history and how it put a nail in the coffin of a powerful cartel in particular and drug running in general, and went heavy on blaming the drug cartels. The other piece took a different approach, citing drug use statistics and the toll it takes on everyone involved, and blamed America’s addiction to illegal drugs for the escalating cartel influence in the U.S. Of course, the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes, and it got me thinking how this related to writing and the indie community (yeah, I see connections everywhere—even when the link is wafer-thin).

First off, it reminded me that working together tends to create a bigger victory for all parties involved (the U.S. government, anyone?). Being able to share information between these agencies has resulted in a more effective approach in making arrests, much like sharing pertinent information between indies results in a more effective approach to becoming successful at the writing game. For example, how to put out a higher quality product (books), generate more sales, better accessibility and visibility, not to mention being able to meet some pretty fantastic people.

But, there’s a dark side to this ability to share information and spin it whichever way the originator wants. In the comment section of the first piece, several folks mentioned that they knew the people involved in the bust, that they had families, and that yes, they’d made a poor decision in working for the cartels, but that they were still human beings and that, as far as they knew in the U.S. the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Other commenters weren’t quite so complimentary, as you can imagine. The other article had similar comments, both for and against the premise.

Perception and experience are everything when it comes to opinions.

In another instance, I was having dinner with some friends when someone brought up a new movie coming out about a heroic captain who risks his life to save his crew from Somali pirates. One of the dinner attendees, a retired merchant marine, objected to glorifying the captain, since said captain was within his rights to avoid using the route which was known to be heavily traveled by pirates. It turns out that the captain was following orders from his boss, the shipping company, to take the route in order to save the company money. True, he was in danger of losing his job if he didn’t comply, but from the retired sailor’s point of view the captain shouldn’t have gone there in the first place as he knowingly endangered his crew. (Note: Several crew members have brought suit against the shipping company, charging the captain and company with negligence.)

Again, two sides to the story.

And, not to beat a dead horse, but the recent kerfuffle regarding authors allegedly paying for fake reviews brings the whole concept home for me. Yes, some authors have paid for fake reviews, but many more haven’t. A lot of people took sides on that issue who didn’t have the full story. One of the authors on the list posted a well-reasoned and thoughtful essay defending their integrity, while another decided to stoop to the level of the original poster and trash them on their social media accounts, going so far as to message folks in their Twitter inbox, letting them know they were (gasp) following a friend of the Big Bad Poster, and were sure they would want to know (a thinly veiled threat, if you ask me, since Unnamed Author took the time to research and then send the person a message, basically telling them, “I’m watching you!” Seriously? Don’t they have better things to do?)

I guess the whole idea of this post is to suggest that there are always two sides to every story. As with the people who were busted in the drug sting, they were human beings with families and friends and didn’t necessarily deserve to be trashed in the comments as they hadn’t yet been convicted. Let the criminal court system sort it out. As for the captain, yes, he showed bravery when his ship and crew were attacked by pirates, but should he have taken that route? And, as for the person to whom the author sent the direct message on Twitter, I know for a fact that they didn’t have a clue who the person was that they were following and had just followed back as a courtesy. After receiving the message, they promptly unfollowed both the author and the friend of the blogger, and now thinks a lot less of the author.

From now on, I’m going to try to see both sides of every story. I can only hope that others will do the same for me.

Author: D.V. Berkom

DV Berkom grew up in the Midwest region of the US, received her BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several years and at least a dozen moves later, she now lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her sweetheart Mark, an ex-chef-turned-contractor, and writes in the male point of view whenever she gets a chance. Indies Unlimited: Amazon US author page link: Website:

20 thoughts on “Two Sides to Every Story”

  1. Great post, D.V. Sometimes though when you are the one on one side of it, it is hard to see the other side. Not that I’ve been there lately, but I always try to look a both sides… and then root for the underdog, 🙂

    1. I totally get that, Jacqueline. A lot of times it’s hard to see both sides, but definitely worth the trouble. And underdogs rule!

  2. Thanks for the reminder, D.V. It’s easy to forget, in this highly partisan day and age, that every story has at least two sides. Journalists, for example, are supposed to be objective and report on all sides of any given story. We’ve gotten away from that, to the point that some people don’t believe it’s possible. But it is, of course, as you point out. 🙂

    1. No kidding, Lynne. I’ve noticed much more partisan journalism (from the left, right, and everything in between) in the past several years–so much so that it’s refreshing (almost shocking) when I see a piece that’s unbiased. I hope the pendulum swings toward a more balanced approach soon.

  3. Great post. I think this is also a result of the 24-hour news cycle. We have a tendency to jump on a story before the facts are known when we’d all be better off by taking a deep breath, stepping back, and waiting for more facts to come to light.

  4. Excellent post, D.V. One of my favorite takeaways from journalism school was learning how to see different sides of an issue. It’s been helpful on many occasions. Even though, as Lynne pointed out, journalism has changed since then. 😉 But this is also a great skill for a novelist.

    1. See? I knew there was a connection to writing 😀 I find it valuable when writing antagonists…if I can sympathize, so can the reader, which helps to make the bad guy more 3-dimensional.

  5. I agree. What I have experienced, though, is that seeing both sides, especially if you actually say it aloud, can cost you friends and relationships. It seems that a lot of folks don’t want to be told there are two sides. (It’s also why I often find myself on the fence). Bottom line – the truth is hard to find, no matter how open minded we are.

  6. A critical subject, well done, DV. For those of you who have not dipped their feet in eastern philosophy, one of the most important foundation subjects is called Emptiness or Shunyata — which, in pop terms, means — everyone who is looking at the same object is forced to see it differently — even those who agree basically that it is what it is. Why forced? Because we don’t have a choice in how we initially rate something — though later, with new information, a sane person is open to changing her mind, or modifying original ops about a situation/person/whatever….thank you again DV!

    1. Ah yes, that whole sane vs insane thing…I don’t know where people have gotten the impression that changing your mind (or even compromise) is bad. How the heck else do you learn? Rigid thinking tends to keep the thinker mired in ineffective situations/solutions. Learn, bend, grow. As a writer, I try to keep this in mind.

  7. Good post, DV, and a tricky subject to tackle. I believe that unbiased journalism went out with ‘saving up’ for something you need or really want. Anyone who has brought up children and or taught or dealt with groups (small or large) of children, or in fact groups of adults, must understand the concept of more than one point of view: in terms of who is wrong and who is right! One thing life has taught me is to step back (you get a wider perspective) whenever possible and take the time to see more.

    1. Absolutely, TD. Seeing more than just your own point of view enriches your life so much more than steadfastly adhering to one way and one way only. Especially in the indie world, you need to be flexible and fluid, able to switch direction (original assumption) in mid-stream in order to take advantage of opportunities and shifting foundations. Some people believe it’s a sign of weakness to understand/empathize with viewpoints different from their own (or withhold judgment), but I see it as a huge strength.

  8. Thoughtful post DV. With the current Kobogate debacle, it’s hard to navigate a path through the shades of grey…sorry! Couldn’t resist. On the one hand, I don’t think young kids should have open slather on erotica. On the other hand I don’t see blanket censorship as the answer either. Oh and by the way, after pulling all those self-published books, most of which were /not/ erotica, Kobo somehow managed to leave 50 Shades up. Not grey enough perhaps?

  9. Excellent reminder that our own way of thinking is not often the only, or right, way. It pays to at least acknowledge the other sides of the story. Also makes us better writers! Thanks for posting.

    1. You’re welcome, Melissa! I know a couple of “my way or the highway” folks and they have a hard time navigating through life. They end up angry more often than not.

  10. “Perception and experience are everything when it comes to opinions.”

    Excellent point, DV.

    Your comments about paid reviews remind me of a fellow author’s experience. He was approached by a writer offering to exchange reviews. The writer belonged to a group of review swappers who had given his poorly edited/written book five-star ratings. I wouldn’t have given it any rating at all.

    Can there be two sides to this story? I can’t think of anything positive to say about it.

    1. We all tend to fool ourselves at some point (e.g., thinking that getting fake 5* reviews will make discerning (or not) readers like the book). Gaming the system may help you in the short run but inevitably will come back to bite you, IMO. Some people have a steeper learning curve than others. Maybe the positive to be found there is to not judge the guy (a positive for the perceiver). People who do what that author did/is doing strike me more as desperate than anything else.

      Thanks for posting!

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