The Professional

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“After Watergate, which happened when I was in college, I became increasingly inspired by journalism as a way to change the world. It sounds corny, but to wake the public up, to serve a higher cause.”
David Talbot

As consumers of news, we know that there are many stereotypes of a journalist.  These include thinking journalists are people who are angry at the world or that journalists’ worldview are all the same.  Some people may be like this, because it is extremely hard to be objective–but no matter if a person is a journalist or not, everyone has their own worldview.

A worldview does not mean the writer is biased. The book, The Mind of a Journalist, claims, “A worldview is not a bias, and it’s not a prejudice.” It simply means one might look at a story in a different perspective than someone else.  It comes from being raised in different places and by different people. The following link gives a great example of perspectives and how they benefit us: Stereotypes and Generalities.

For example, my worldview as a California girl raised by conservative parents, would be one completely different than a liberalist in another country.  These different world views can affect what journalists think is important news or not.  The concept of time is one minor example of how different places and cultures can be.  In America, everything is fast-pased and “what is happening now” oriented.  In a place like Saudi Arabia, this does not matter as much as much as quality. Ambiguity changes per areas too.  Some countries prefer high-context–which is having every detail known, while countries like America are okay with the low-context scale of ambiguity.  The writer’s job is to decipher what context their audience will be, and direct their article toward that scale, sometimes needing more detail, sometimes less.

What is “newsworthy” in our country?  Why do we constantly see bad things in the news?  Something I never thought of before, but rings true once I learned it, is that America is an optimistic country.  We have this expectation to fulfill, that things will turn out just right.  So when things do not fulfill this expectation, it is news.  This concept of newsworthy in America, is completely different than a country like Mexico or India; they see bad all the time so when something good happens, it becomes news.

Ethnocentrism is also another worldview that works because it gives the news in the country’s perspective in which it is writing. Ethnocentrism is the idea that “your” country or culture is better than others.  It shows news through your own lens.  Some people argue this is being biased, but experiments have been done where a journalist tries to immerse themselves in another culture and it simply cannot be done.  You are true to whoever you are, whatever worldview you have, whatever you strongly believe in.  Then comes the part of the journalist to write their worldview without turning it into biased.

The “New Journalism” belief is to immerse yourself in the story.  This has its pros and cons, as everything else does.  A positive in this that journalists can discover the insider-view to whatever they are writing about.  A negative attribute to this concept is where to draw the line between detachment and involvement.  The proper way ultimately is up to the writer.  “To each his own” as the old saying goes.  If being “involved” with a story means you interfered to save somebody’s life, that is a humanist’s duty and more important to humanity than it is to your journalistic perspective.

We are all uniquely defined by our beliefs, attitudes, and values.

This means, every journalist is different; just as no two people are alike.  But under all that diversity, there is the Priesthood of Journalists.  This loose-knit fraternity binds journalists to surrender to the higher calling of serving others–once again bringing in the concept of a journalist’s first priority is the viewer.

The Priesthood of Journalism is as follows: 

1. Journalism is the “fourth estate,” meaning it is a powerful, unofficial branch of government. When you think about everything the press has unleashed, this first aspect of journalism cannot be more true.  Journalism causes problems, creates solutions, shapes the nation.

2. The norms and ethics of the calling are a product of a kind of journalistic inbreeding; meaning journalists learn their skills and writing habits from other journalists.  They are expected to uphold guidelines but nobody is actually checkin to make sure they are followed.

3. Journalists must separate themselves from others in the community.  This is in order to clearly state the facts without favoring any side. It also includes emotional self-preservation.

4. Confidentiality. This can be good or bad because it gives a writer more information, but can also be seen as less-credible or even dangerous in terms of the law.  Bottom line: editors discourage confidentiality.

As long as journalist follow this unofficial priesthood, we don’t have to worry about people thinking things like this:  “All of journalism is a shrinking art. So much of it is hype. The O.J. Simpson story is a landmark in the decline of journalism.”     Dick Schaap

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