Who is a Journalist? [Take 2]

10 Apr

I’ve been looking over what I wrote at the beginning of the semester, and I have to say, I’m not sure that I’ve changed my opinion all that much. I still think that there are certain things that set journalists apart from every day bloggers, or “citizen journalists”, but I’m also coming to the conclusion that there is a real place for the citizen journalist role in journalism.

There are so many new forums where individuals can go on, publish their thoughts, record their experiences, and really be a part of the journalistic experience. I think there are stories that we never would have seen if it weren’t for social media and this idea of “citizen journalism”. You look at Egypt, for example, and the huge role that citizens played in getting the news out to the world of what was happening within. There are things that came from those citizens that we would not have seen otherwise, and I think because of that, there is a real need for that type of information in the journalistic process.

However, I think the difference between journalists and “citizen journalists” is the standard they are held to.  Nowadays, anyone can start up a blog and call themselves a journalist, but that’s not true journalism, and there are things that accredited journalists do that citizens journalists cannot. They have access to more information, and are better able and more inclined to objectively approach a news story that an everyday blogger.

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 a journalist should hold themselves to.

Many people like to think that social media sites such as Twitter break news stories, and I will be the first to admit that I often read breaking news from my twitter feed, but I only trust it when it’s a tweet from an accredited news source. Too often have a read a trending tweet to find that a famous celebrity has died only to find out that they are, in fact, not dead. Just a few months ago, the assisination of Kim Jong Un was trending…however King Jong Un is currently alive and well in North Korea.

I think that because these accredited news sources hold themselves to a higher standard, we on the public side of the media tend to trust that they are going to give us the best verified information available. We hope they do anyway. I don’t think you can call someone a journalist if when they post a news story, you have wait until it is verified by a news source to believe it.

Over the course of the semester, we’ve learned about dozens of journalistic principles. I think these are the very things that set us apart from the bloggers and the would-be journalists on Twitter. I’m not arguing that there isn’t a place for the “citizen journalist” in news. I guess I just view them as more of a source than an actual journalist.

I think overall, a journalist is someone whose only goal is 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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