On Journalism

17 Jan

What is Journalism?

I heard it said once that journalism is the “first rough draft of history”, and as far as I’m concerned, that is the best definition ever given, because Journalism, in its essence, is simply the telling of tomorrow’s history. I was only eight years old when the Twin Towers were hit, but I have a vivid memory of the news coverage that day. My younger brother, however, was four. He doesn’t remember anything about that day, but he’s seen the video. Because of journalism, he, and other kids his age can understand a little bit of what the rest of us felt that day. It allowed the rest of us on the other side of the country to try to connect with the victims, their families, and the citizens of New York on that trying day. Journalism is an outlet that allows us to be a part of history, and connect with people around the world.

I understand that not every story is as ground breaking as 9/11, but I still think it can be said that journalism is at the very least, a record. Sadly, hardly anyone writes in journals anymore, and 10,000 years from now, when they look back on our generation, I truly believe that the newspapers, the newscasts, and the blogs are going to be what they use to document what it was like to live in 2011.

Journalism is also a safeguard. It’s a protection against corrupt government, and a defender of democracy. Journalists keep the government in check and attempt to keep them honest if they are allowed to give the news freely, without censorship. I look at what’s going on in North Korea post-Kim Jong-il, and it makes me cringe. The press is forced to worship a leader that left them starving and poverty-stricken. Calling him anything less than perfect is impermissible. Corruption thrives when there is no one to speak up against it.

Journalism is so important. It connects people from all walks of life, and gives a voice to those who would otherwise have none. It’s essential to democracy. It helps us remember where we’ve been, where we’re going, and perhaps where we’d like to go. It’s the first draft of history.

Who is a Journalist?

These days it’s almost easier to definite what a journalist isn’t rather than trying to pin down exactly what it is. With so many new forums for people to publish their thoughts, some have suggested that nearly everyone could be a journalist if they wanted to. However, I would submit, that the definition of who a journalist is hasn’t, or at least shouldn’t change from what a journalist was in the days of Walter Cronkite.

Back then journalists were held to a standard. They were expected to give the news objectively, and professionally. The news didn’t lean right or left, and didn’t pander to business. Nowadays, anyone can start up a blog and call themselves a journalist, but that’s not true journalism.

The fact of the matter is, blogs don’t make the news. They take the news they find in newspapers, on TV, or other “core-news” websites, and either regurgitate what they’ve read, or use that news to voice their opinions. That’s not journalism. That’s free loading. While their opinions are valid, and it’s good when discussions are sparked from the news, I don’t think  it meets that standard that Walter Cronkite set when he became a journalist. That’s when journalists where the most trusted people in America, something the press could do well to emulate.

I think overall, a journalist is someone whose only goal to give the news to citizens with out an agenda–presenting the facts, from both sides if necessary. Someone who gets to the story first, but uses good judgement in when to break it. Someone who strives to serve and connect the community by getting them involved and keeping them informed. A journalist is someone who knows what is expected of them, and tries every day to live up to that standard. That’s the kind of journalist I want to be.

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