Monday, October 10, 2011

The Profession

In class we discussed the “priesthood” of journalism and its characteristics. Journalists learn from other journalists and they see themselves as the “fourth estate” which could cause them to see themselves as above the masses in some ways. But we also discussed problems journalists deal with in being able to serve the public. One of these is keeping sources confidential.

Keeping sources confidential is done to protect them from harm: loss of job, physical injury, damaged reputation, etc. When someone could get hurt for whistleblowing it can be important for journalists to respect their confidentiality. This video is about WikiLeaks and if, because of the Internet, it’s becoming too easy for sources to be revealed. Sometimes it’s important to grant confidentiality (Deep Throat comes to mind) but sometimes it can just cause problems for the journalist. What about the people’s right to know? What if the court orders me to reveal my source? Therefore, most editors discourage using confidential sources.

On the topic of the media in a modern, electronic age, I found an article from the Online Journalism Review talking about changes the Internet is making to the journalism “priesthood.” It used to be that journalists were trained by other journalists and they kept the story exclusive to themselves. But now that anyone can post blogs on current events and answer back to the journalists, the old system fails. This article asks whether the priesthood of journalism is dying out in the modern age.

Another problem journalists have is their worldview. Everyone has one, but it’s not considered a helpful trait to a journalist. I think it could be; a journalist with a favorable worldview could understand and help report a story better than one with a different worldview. But that gets into the need for diversity in the media. I’m talking about bias. I found a webpage on bias and, more specifically, political bias in the media for all who are interested. All journalists have biases and in order to avoid twisting the story to these biases they have to be scientific when getting facts and make sure they objectively stand apart from the crowd and look at all angles.

Not an easy job, but someone has to do it.

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