Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Journalism is to Me

According to Dictionary.com, journalism is “the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.” While this is a fairly straightforward and generic definition of journalism, after taking this class, I feel as if I have a stronger grasp on what journalism really is and what kind of journalist I hope to be someday.

Joseph Pulitzer once said “put it before them briefly, so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” As simple as it may be, this has become my motto as a journalist. I feel like the all of the different components of excellent journalism are encompassed in this quote.
Put it before them briefly so they will read it

In the world we live in, everyone is constantly moving. Not many people have time to just sit down and enjoy a nice, lengthy story in the newspaper. Journalists need to make sure we put the most important information out there, in the briefest way possible. That's not to say that journalists should be messy about the way they write articles. They need to be professional in form but also be written in a way that anyone could understand it.

While I may preach that this is important, I am nowhere near perfect. There are times where I write paragraphs describing a subject that could be easily summed up in a few sentences. Even though what I say may be insightful and interesting, it more than likely loses the attention of those that may have been reading to begin with.

When it comes to writing brief, but concisely, it is typically important to put the most important information in the beginning. A journalist can write more later on in the article for those dedicated readers, but for the general public who only reads the first few sentences, important aspects to the story should be put up front. There may be a very well-written article with crucial information, but if the beginning isn't to the point, valuable readers and viewers may get lost in the shuffle.

Clearly so they will appreciate it
The book, Elements of Journalism, states that “journalists must make the significant interesting and relevant.” Writing news clearly does not just mean putting things in layman's terms. It means we make sure that those who we are writing for can understand it. We can write the most wonderful piece, but if it's not written in a way that others will be able to understand it, it might well have never been written in the first place. No one wants to have a dictionary and encyclopedia while reading or watching the news, so we shouldn't write in such away where that might be necessary. Journalists are supposed to inform, but not confuse, their viewers

Picturesquely so they will remember it
Journalists don't need to use big, flowery words in order to paint a picture in the viewers mind. Some of the best stories I have read have used simple words, but the way they were worded and put together made it all the more memorable. Journalists are supposed to bring the news of the world to the homes of those they serve. While they could easily just write boring articles quickly, it's so important to take the time to make sure the story is interesting for those reading it. This doesn't mean that journalists need to be literary masters like Shakespeare or Charles Dickens in order to write good news, but it does mean they have to be somewhat creative in their writing. I mean, there's a lot of competition out there. The editors and managers of different journalism companies are going to want journalists that know how to write news that sells.

However, when writing these interesting stories, a journalist must always remember not to make things up. Not only will the inevitably find out and lose credibility for themselves and their company, but it shows a low sense of integrity. I think that one of the best qualities to say you have is that of integrity.
And, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light

Journalists are obligated to tell the truth. Sometimes we may be faced with situations where it may be easier to look the other way, or to make something up to protect someone we are writing about. However, that is not the job of someone in journalism – that's what Public Relations is for. People come to news sources because they want to know what is going on in the world. It is up to us to give that to them, regardless of what the consequences may be. We should never make anything up. So many people rely on the news to tell them what's going on in the world. While it may be a good idea for these people to actually go out and experience the world, most aren't going too. If we feed them lies, they will more than likely believe us, and they will not be “guided by its light”.

Along the same lines, verification is so important. Sometimes there may be a deadline fast approaching, and we may think that it will just be easier to go back later and fix mistakes. However, this is not the case. The more mistakes there are, the less credibility to news outlet and the journalist have. Even if it does take a little bit longer to make sure facts, names and stories are correct, it will pay off in the end. I know that I am more likely to read newspapers or watch news programs that don't constantly have a section about “correcting previous mistakes.” When there are a lot of mistakes, it makes me feel like the reporters do not actually care about who they are reporting to, but more their compensation.

Journalists should not tell people what to believe but give them a basis for different situations and allow them to form their own opinion. We must make sure to stay unbiased. This will be hard. We will be given stories at times that we may have strong feelings about. Sometimes we are going to be faced with a situation that we may not agree with. However, we must report the facts and try not to let our bias get in the way.

One last topic I'd like to touch on is trauma and journalism. The discussion we had in class was very eye opening. While trauma is inevitable in the field of journalism, how we, as journalists, handle it, is crucial. There may be times that we will report on situations that will tug at the heartstrings, or may even traumatize us. It is important to know how to handle these situations, and to be sensitive to those that are being affected. We must always make sure that we do not put ourselves in danger for a story. As Dr. Cressman said, no story is worth risking your life.

I'm not sure what type of journalism I want to go in at this point. Sometimes I think it would be fun to be an international journalist, write for the Church magazines, or just be a local reporter. Whatever way I choose to go, I know that I will incorporate all of the principles I learned throughout this course in my career. I know I won't be the perfect journalist and at times I will make mistakes. However, good journalists become that way through trial and error and just making sure they do better the next time.

So what is journalism to me? Journalism is telling the truth. Journalism is investigating and giving a voice to the voiceless. Journalism is a career that may not bring about lots of money, but the other hidden “payments” are far worth it. Journalism is a career that I often get scoffed for going into, but I wouldn't change my mind for anything. Journalism is writing because I love it, but also because I want to help bring the world to the homes of those who can't go out and experience itself. As Dan Rather says, journalism is more addictive than crack cocaine. I can't wait to see if that's true.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Engagement and Relevance

It is a tough task to produce stories that are not only relevant to current situations around the world and in peoples lives, but to make them interesting at the same time. It is important to not fill the news with fluff that no one can relate too, even if it is entertaining, but at the same time, it is also important to not just throw out articles full of facts that no one wants to read. 

As the book said "Journalists must make the significant interesting and relevant". To do this, a journalist has to dig deeper and become an investigative journalists. Stories pertaining to significant material is not just going to jump out at any given moment. For the most part, it takes time and effort. While this might be time consuming every now and then, in the end it makes a journalist more credible and is more likely to ensure that a viewer will come back. 

The book talks about the "Infotainment strategy". While this will likely draw along a few viewers for awhile, there is no real substance to it. There is pretty much just facts being regurgitated to viewer. It's fast and it's fresh, but it doesn't last beyond that. There is no depth, emotional , or hard value to it. It may attract viewers in the beginning, but what keeps them coming back is the consistency of good, quality news. 

It is important for journalists to have a narrative approach when writing. This doesn't mean that a journalist should strictly just go for the emotional side of a topic, or make things up, but they should incorporate a style that will engage those that are viewing or reading it. 

Becoming an engaging journalist takes work. The best have to learn by failing at times. However, through trial-and-error, a journalist can perfect their work so it is interesting and people keep coming back to it. This is a goal that all journalists should have. 

Journalists also need to make sure that what they are reporting on is relevant to the people they are reporting too. If it is not, they will lose a fan base that will be hard and expensive to rebuild. It is best for a journalism company to have a wide variety of experienced journalists that are able to write articles that will be relevant to all. It is also important to create new information, and not just regurgitate information found online. In the world today, it might be easy to do just find information online and talk about it in a broadcast, but it is more important for a reporter to find new information and new stories to report on. 

Interesting links on this topic: 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comprehensive and Proportion in Journalism

How many times have you opened up a newspaper or clicked on an article online, start to read, and after your finish, feel like you didn't learn or gain anything from the article? Everyone more than likely has. We live in a society where people want the most relevant information in as little time as possible. No one has time to read a long, drawn out article with difficult words. Therefore, the following rule is important for journalists to implement into their work:

Journalists should keep the news comprehensive and in proportion.

The journalist has to determine what is important for society to read, and what to just throw aside. Many times, journalists will find a story that really isn't important to write a big story about, but they will anyways because they know it will sell. I mean, how many times have Brad and Angelina been on the front of magazines, internet sites, and even newspapers? More than I can even count. Is the status of their relationship or how many children they've adopted really important to the well-being of society? Not at all. However, it sells, and so journalists will cover it. This is not right; Journalists need to write what needs to be said about a certain topic in proportion and then move on to something new. 

While it is usually up to the journalist to decide what is important, and what is not, there is room for biasm in stories. What one journalist might deem important may not be completely relevant to the vast majority of people. For instance, there are many religious topics that a journalist will find themselves drawn to, and may want to write a big story about. However, if the rest of the world doesn't share the same faith, it may be hard for anyone to want to read. 

In the book, Elements of Journalism, they talk about asking teenagers what they think the next big trend will be. The teenagers responded by saying that, it was the media's job to tell them. While this may seem like a big statement at first, it's very true. I can't think of very many trends that have started and weren't spread by flashy commercials or being featured in a popular show. The media has such a huge influence on what people want. They have a lot of power, that can be used for good or bad. 

Additional links on this topic:




Thursday, March 25, 2010

Faith and the Journalist

This was probably my favorite presentation so far. Faith and religion is such an important part of my life, and I feel like no matter what my profession is, it will be incorporated into it. However, I've often heard that it's impossible to be a good Mormon (or member of any other religious sect, for that matter) and a journalist. When I first was told this, I was kind of bothered. I mean, why would someone have to foresake their beliefs in order to write. Is it not possible? In all honesty, I do think it is possible. Is it hard? Of course. But it is possible.

There may be times in which we may be asked to write a story that may not coincide with our Faith, or that we need to objective towards one particular group. There will be other times in which we may want to incorporate our own beliefs into certain statements that we fill would benefit from what we have to say, but we cannot. In these times, our beliefs may be tested. However, it is possible to be objective but not deny your faith. 

Journalists are supposed to portray the truth. With that being said, it should be universal truth that they report on, and not on what they personally believe to be true. There are so many different beliefs around the world, that what one person believes to be true won't be true to someone else. For instance, someone may be asked to report alcoholism. An LDS reporter may be tempted to bring in quotes from Prophets and from the World of Wisdom, because he or she believes that to be truth. However, a person who doesn't necessarily share the LDS faith may disregard any of that because he or she doesn't believe in the Church. Instead, the journalist should state facts that have been proven and support the argument that alcohol is bad for anyone.

I'm not saying we should completely leave faith out of our work. If asked to report on something that would compromise ones standards, we should stand strong and do the right thing. With most things, it's important to find a balance. Actions speak louder than words. If a journalist wants to make their faith apparent, they can show that by showing integrity and respect in the things they say and report on. Faith is important, and should not be abandoned with a career. Having faith and being a journalist at the same time is possible!

Here are some videos/links about faith/religion in journalism:

Is journalism a religion itself?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Journalism as a Public Forum

I found this topic to be rather interesting. Mainly because the world is becoming more tech-savvy, and I am very much involved in online journalism and viewing the opinions of others, whether it be a stay-at-home mom or someone who has a degree in journalism. 

Is the increasing amount of people being allowed to write online appropriate? Should there be more moderation?

I'm all for blogs. There are tons of things I have found out because someone had written a blog about a certain topic, and I stumbled across it.  However, anyone can get a blog, and write whatever they want. There are "codes of ethics" for blogs, but it is impossible to make sure every single blog is factual and following the rules.

Comment Boards on websites:
I am definitely a frequenter on the comment sections of news sites. While many of the comments people make are unintelligent and are obviously just written to cause problems, there are often points brought up that do add to the article. I think that allowing reader comments makes it so certain elements are added to a story that may not have been brought to light, had only the original author of the story been involved.

I personally love wikipedia. It drives me crazy when teachers will not allow it as a source because there is a lot of relevant and accurate on the pages there. It is true that anyone is allowed to get on and edit the information. One particular account that I can remember is when I was looking up information on Murray, Utah. Someone had gone in and written that the city had been renamed "David Archuleta-City". Obviously, this was not true. I checked back awhile later, and it had been taken off, but this demonstrates the downfall of some public forums. However, as was said in the presentation, the philosophy of wikipedia is that people will catch these factual errors and then correct them. But can someone always count on this -- there is always the possibility that something will fall under the radar and inaccurate information will be presented as fact.

The issue with public forums is just that -- they are completely open to the public. Because there is no real way to moderate things beyond message boards and chat rooms, pretty much anyone can write whatever they want. I personally believe that people will say things online that they would never say in person. I follow many different twitter feeds of people I know, and I am shocked by some of the things posted. There is one person I know who is extremely friendly and nice in person, but everything they say online is so negative and critical. I think that having journalism as a public forum has good sides and bad sides, as do most things in the world. There should be public forums available, but moderation is essential -- not so much to weed out things a particular company or story doesn't want said, but to get rid of things that aren't true. Public forums allow the minority to have a voice. 

Many are worried that public forums are crowding out real journalism. This may be true, but it also may be just being blown out of proportion. I think that there will always be people who will only rely on the news given by a credible channel or website. Allowing public forums makes it so discussion happens and the voices of the unheard can be heard. 

Interesting links pertaining to the topic:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ethics and Journalism

Ethics are important in every area of life. In class, ethics was described as "the aspects, effects, and moral dilemma of diversity in the newsroom."

In a lot of my classes lately, ethics and integrity have been discussed. There will be points in all of our lives in which we will have to have our ethics tested and may have to defy those above us in order to do what we know is right. As said in the presentation, exercising conscience is not easy. As journalists, we will have to work in an environment where the manager of the newsroom has the final say. However, that does not mean that we need to sit back idly and allow all of his or her decisions be made based off of their opinion alone. 

There is a quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley that I really love. It says, "Wrong is still wrong even if everyone's doing it. Right is still right even if no one's doing it." While this can be applied to a lot of different scenarios, I think journalists' should apply it to their work and ethics as well. We cannot compromise what we know is right for the sake of getting a story. 

I really liked the quote in The Mind of a Journalist that said, "[Journalists] are dealing in nonfiction rather than fiction . . . You must always remember that you never make anything up." Sometimes it might be easy to make up a quote, or add an embellishment to a story, just to make it more appealing to the audience. This is NOT ethical in any way, shape or form. In the end, stories that lie will be made known, and the career of that journalist will be compromised and tainted. 

The media has such a huge influence on how the majority of citizens think and feel. For this fact alone, it is important for journalists to display a high level of ethics in what they do and say, because much of society is relying on what they say. While I don't believe that people should entirely base their beliefs on what they hear on the radio, tv, or through print mediums, a lot do. 

Newsrooms should have diversity and everyone should be able to express their opinion. As long as these opinions are based off of truth, it is good. But when certain opinions start getting pushed away, and the influence of not so ethical means start to come into play, problems arise. There needs to be communication within the newsroom, to, in a sense, seperate the wheat from the tares and create an environment where the best information gets out. 

Here are some good links pertaining to ethics in journalism:

Online Journalism Ethics--Sometimes people feel like because it's online, they can be less ethical. Far too many times, people will post things online that they would never dare say in person. This is not ethical at all. Online journalists should follow the same ethics as those reporting for newspapers or tv stations. 

Basic rules all journalists should follow:

Code of Ethics for Professional Journalists: 

Ethics and Diversity: 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Watchdog Journalism

Over the past few years, I have taken several different journalism classes. The one subject I always seem to remember is watchdog journalism. I can recall chapters in every book I've read on journalism completely dedicated to it, as well as mentions of it scattered throughout the remainder of the books. Obviously, it's important. So what exactly is Watchdog Journalism?

According to Wikipedia, Watchdog journalism "is a type of investigative journalism . . . Forms of activist journalism aimed at holding accountable public personalities and institutions whose functions impact social and political life." While that is the technical definition, I think it's basically looking out for the little guy; keeping the government in check; making sure the average, every day citizen doesn't get scammed. 

In almost every lecture we've had in class, journalist's obligation to find and tell the truth has been discussed. This is a major player in watchdog journalism. Journalists set out to find the truth on certain situations and stories. They investigate, sometimes undercover, and report on what they find. 

There are some risks to watchdog journalism. There is always the chance that the journalist may uncover something that may not completely be accurate. In order to be truly effective, watchdog journalists need to check out all their facts before displaying them to the public. This takes time, and in a world where everyone wants news fast, some journalists fail to do this.  The example used in class talked about the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Had the person who got the leak that said Richard Jewell possibly planted the bomb checked more into the story, all the controversary may have been avoided. 

There were 3 types of watchdog journalism discussed in class; Original investigative reporting, interpretive investigative reporting, and reporting on investigations. 

Original investigative reporting is when the reporter actually uncovers and reports on things that the public previously did not know. 

The second type is interpretive investigative reporting. This is where an idea that has been carefully analyzed is developed into an investigative report, trying to piece together all of the pieces. 

Finally, there is reporting on investigations. This type of investigative reporting is developed from leaks of information from an investigative that is already going on. 

Overall, the public needs watchdog journalism. While it may uncover some untimely and sticky facts, it is what keeps the public informed.

For more information on watchdog journalism, click on these links for stories and videos:

How to do watchdog Journalism:

Watchdog team wins award: