Sunday, December 17, 2006

Who is a Journalist?

It seems that anyone can be a journalist today. Many of those who think they can write, also think they are capable of writing for newspapers. And sometimes the newspapers confirm that, by actually publishing what they wrote.

I am not saying that this is always wrong. After all in blogosphere almost everyone performs some of the roles of journalists. And many bloggers are even convinced that they are better at doing that than mainstream media.

It often happens that people think they can do what architects, builders or real-estate agents (but not doctors) do. They furnish their homes, sometimes they even build them, and more often than not they sell them. Usually, they say, they do this because it is too expensive to hire an architect, a builder a real-estate agent. I guess the same reasoning is in the minds of newspaper publishers who hire non-journalists. The difference is that in the first case, it is the person who performs the role of an architect and so on, who pays the price for his/her inexperience. In the case of journalists, it is the reader who pays that price.

I am not saying that anyone who finished journalism school is a good journalists, and neither I am saying that among non-journalists there are not excellent writers. I am only saying that sometimes I read an article that shouldn't be published at all. It is not well-written, it is clear from its content that the author hadn't had any idea what he/she was writing about, and what angers me most, he/she generalizes, over-simplifies, and sometimes even writes something that would be hard for him to prove (like a false hint by someone with an agenda). All this is not only his/her fault, afterall he/she was only trying to earn some money; it is much more the fault of the editor who published the story.

Sometimes I recognize such stories because I am familiar with the topic. What worries me, are all those stories that I read and believe in, but should't.


pengovsky said...

The way I see it, the problem lies in the fact that journalism is still taught as an "elementary science" - like social or political sciencies or law, if you will.

I agree completely with your post. I cannot forget a bizzare event when one of the great names od Slovene journalism (the name will be piously omitted) said to me that he/she feels she doesn't know exactly what he/she is writing about - and this person has been in business for some twenty years now! It is hardly this persons fault thouhg, for he/she is not a bad journalist. The problem is that journalism is taught "as such" and not in conjuncture with many other sciencies.

The solution? Simple: Journalism should be made an exclusively post-graduate study. Journalist should know the substance of their articles in-depth first and then learn how to write articles or do pieces for radio/television.

Sonja said...

I agree with you to some extent. I think there are two different approaches to this. One is the one you suggest.

However, I must add that there are many excellent Schools of Journalism around the world which teach journalism on undergraduate level and are quite successful at it. They measure their performance by evaluating the success of their alumni later in their professional life as journalists.

Borut said...

again I agree with you and I add the following. Published text is still on much higher level then photography. If editors and journalists do recognize bad text and in principle they know what's wrong with it, they don't care for the level of photography. Photojournalism is in much much worser position. But I'm not complaining because best photographers will have always more work they can handle.

Sonja said...

I know that many editors don't care about photography, and many journalists actually see it as a threat. I disagree. I think a good pictures adds a lot and I think they should be selected with as much care as journalistic texts are. But the editors should be educated first to be able to evaluate pictures or they should work hand in hand with photo editors.