Monthly Archives: April 2012

Journalism and Journalists

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Coming to a close, this Comms239 class has truly taught me what journalism is and who journalists are.  Looking back at my very first blog post, surprisingly my first opinion of journalists was pretty spot on; however, I have learned to a much deeper level what being a journalist consists of.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states journalism as:

the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.
Furthermore, that journalists are people who engage in journalism.  This definition is true, but it only touches the mere surface of what journalism really is and who journalists really are.  Journalism is merely the news, and news is written by journalists.
Bill Moyers gives the perfect description:
“News is what people want to keep hidden.”
Journalism is telling people the truth about what is going on in the world.  It is giving people the important issues–letting people know, not what to think, but what to think about.  Journalism requires the best journalists who can give the truth while staying objective and intriguing.
Journalists are not merely writers who work for the New York Times, they must qualify to fit the criteria of a journalist.  Journalists must be objective, stating the truth without biased.  They must also make sure to use reliable sources so the public can learn to trust their information.  While news is news, a journalists’ job is not only to report the current events.  A journalist must make the significant interesting!  Nobody wants to read a boring news article; it must be relevant to the average citizen’s life otherwise they couldn’t care less about it.  A journalist needs to fit the pieces together into the bigger context of life: why does this matter?  It is the journalist’s job to give the public that answer.
In accordance with the above requirements of a journalist, they must also balance what the public wants to hear and what they need to hear.  After all, a journalists’ first loyalty is to you: the reader.  They must give you what  you want but also what you need.  This is where infotainment comes into play.  Making the significant interesting can play into entertainment, but while also giving them the information they need.  Journalists must find that balance of too much infotainment, because too much of the entertainment factor can distract from what’s important and only leaves the audience wanting more.  A good metaphor is that too much ice cream makes you sick of sweets, or only leaves you wanting the next best flavor.  There is never a compromise sticking with the same ice cream; news is the same.  This is why there are many flavors, or sections, or a magazine or newspaper.  We need moderation in everything.
Bottom line: a journalist, yes, is someone who participates in journalism.  Going further than that, a journalist must fulfill all of their requirements in order to truly be considered a journalist.  If a NYTimes writer gives unreliable sources, fogging the line between truth and storytelling, they may not be a true journalist.  It’s a tough job.  A lot harder than I initially knew.   A journalist is in their field only because they love it.  They want the news first and they want to let people know what is going on!
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Comprehensive and Proportional Journalism

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Along with the infotainment factor I talked about in my previous post, now I will speak of how it fails in the longterm business sense.  Infotainment sounded like a great idea; however, if the people eat too much ice cream, they will get sick.  Here are some reasons it will not work longterm:

(1) If the public is only fed this infotainment news, that is all they will expect, so journalists would have to continually give them bigger and better which would be so hard to keep it newsworthy.

(2) Infotainment can destroy the news organization’s authority to deliver serious news. Trust in the news is a huge part of what journalists try to establish, so providing too much of an entertainment factor could ruin this effort.  Just as comedy is not taken seriously, journalism would not be either.

(3) Providing infotainment plays to the strengths of other media, not your own.  The other media types can cover the pure entertainment, journalists first duty is to give the public the truth.

Here is a hard job for journalists.  How do you find the correct balance between giving the public what they want and what they need?  How do you make it captivating and fascinating, without taking away from the original story?  Journalists do not want a boring news story because nobody listens when they become bored; I know this by experience.  When boredom hits, people stop listening and that is when communication fails.  Communication is the goal here, that is why journalism is a Communications major! The book claims journalist to be infotainment and story telling. Journalists are hired because they are good at this job.

Since I already spoke of much of this topic in the previous blog, I will talk briefly about the topic from the book, “Mind of a Journalist.” Along with the balance of storytelling and infotainment, journalists almost must find it difficult to balance being a part of the entertainment or news without being a type of celebrity themselves.  This is difficult if the journalist is well known because journalists do not want to change the scene by their presence.

“It is hard enough, they say, to separate news from entertainment without having journalists themselves thought of as part of the entertainment scene.” (Mind of a Journalist, 107)

It’s an extremely hard balance because those reporters that we do recognize and know well, can be known to be trustworthy so we look to them for the news.  I had never previously thought of them having a difficult time reaching the news because they are recognized.  Than again, the public trusts them so it may be a good thing when they show up to the scene because people know that certain journalist will deliver the truth.

On the other hand, if the public does not trust them and they are merely a face in the journalism world, that would indeed disrupt the job of journalists and news writing.  In addition to that problem, celebrity journalists usually like to focus on the celebrities. We have seen celebrity journalists since the start of journalism and it will not end now. As everything else, we must simply take them for how they are.  Know which ones are news worthy and which ones are more entertainment.

The Significant must be Interesting!

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News is significant! Or, it is supposed to be… So journalists must make the news significant to their readers; put what is important in the paper and on the news!

What about storytelling? Should journalists emphasize the news that is entertaining and captivating or should they just stick to the news that is considered most important?  The great thing about this profession, is that journalism can be both!  Fascination and important news are two points on a continuum of communicating. We must find the significant interesting.

The reasons sometimes the public does not see this captivating news everyday, is because journalists can bet lazy.  Journalists can be in a hurry, ignorant, lazy, or just running short on time.  These factors are what make journalism difficult but that is where they must step up and deliver. After all, this is what journalism is about right?

Think about this… you are an average college-aged student who is trying to find out what is going on in the world.  Either you are getting very entertained by the news and love watching it but you still don’t really understand what is going on, or you are bored out of your mind listening to war bombings and senator disputes.  Which would you prefer?  Tough decision huh. Nobody likes to be bored, but everybody wants to know what significant things go on in the world and how they are affected by them.  Here is the beautiful thing: you don’t have to choose between the two.

Times are always changing, so journalists must keep up with the current or it will be left behind. Infotainment is the new trend in news. People want entertainment and important news so journalists must deliver both. This is the easiest form of news for people to understand and relate to.

Here are the approaches to make news writing more interesting:

  • Consider who the audience is. What do they need to know?
  • Use a narrative style
  • Write a profile story, an explanatory piece, an issues and trend story, and investigative piece, a descriptive day in the life, a perspective story, Q&A, or a visual story
  • Vary from the usual chronological order. Change it up!
  • The list goes on… Just be creative!

But also just remember.. “technique should never alter the facts.”