Monday, September 12, 2011

What is journalism for?

I will begin by saying I am an aspiring writer but for a long time I didn’t know what kind I wanted to be. I considered journalism for a while because of the attributes of journalists listed in “The Mind of a Journalist” by Jim Willis. Journalists are curious, love to read, love to write, and have a desire to add to the world. I share those loves and desires, but I am not as extroverted as journalists have to be.

Journalism has changed a lot with the advent of the electronic age, but a lot has stayed the same. “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing,” write Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book “The Elements of Journalism.” Now that information comes from everywhere: newspapers and television reports, but also Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and personal blogs like this one. Everyone can be a journalist if they want to be. Everyone can contribute to the information pot.

Kovach and Rosenstiel ask what a journalist’s job is now that every citizen can report and interpret news. “The new journalist is no longer deciding what the public should know – this was the classic role of gatekeeper. He or she is helping audiences make order of it.” While I agree with this I think the modern journalist does more than that. They act as agenda setters – the New York Times still sets the standard for what is newsworthy. Also, papers like the New York Times are recognized as reliable because journalists are held to a higher standard than a blogger. Someone may read something on a blog but until it is verified by a reputable newspaper or broadcast it’s not trustworthy. Maybe that’s just part of making order of the vast floods of information available now.

I think journalists still have the responsibilities they had before the Internet came into being. But now they have to act as a guide to the other fledgling journalists out there.

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