Teaching Examples

What is journalism?
April 18, 2006, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here’s putting it all into perspective:

What the hell is the point of having this means of communication if we are not going to write about what people need to know? We can write about dating when we have our freedom back.

From Nepalese blogger Dinesh Wagle (in AsiaMedia, April 17, 2006).

Elsewhere, Bill Doskoch wrote:

Journalism isn’t just information-gathering; it’s taking a bushel-basket full of information, some of it conflicting or unclear, and weaving it into an informative, interesting whole that meets craft standards for fairness and accuracy.

Doskoch went on at some length about a recent Dan Gillmor column, which included this:

Most people don’t care to be journalists, but many of us can and will occasionally commit an act of journalism, and it would be useful for people to understand some of the principles that have served the professionals, and their audiences, so well for so long.

I’m with Gillmor on this one: You might commit an act of journalism without being anointed as a journalist. The public would be better served by a frank discussion of what journalism is than by a lot of bickering about who is a journalist.

Dinesh Wagle said, “Part of a journalist’s job is to identify the things that people need to know. That is our responsibility, and it is a kind of power that we enjoy.”

Let’s separate the joy of power from the act of journalism. It’s surely more important to figure out, really, what people need to know. And then tell them the truth about it.

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3 Comments so far
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Hi Mindy:

I thought I made a good point here (if I do say so myself):

“With all due respect, Gillmor does need to work on his terminology. If you commit a once-in-a-lifetime act of journalism, does that really make you a journalist?

“If I replace a washer on my kitchen faucet, does that make me a plumber?”

Well, does it?

But in general, I concur that a good discussion of what constitutes journalism these days would be a good thing.

Comment by Bill Doskoch

I thought Dan was making the point that if we agree that a thing is an act of journalism, then we don’t need to quibble over whether the person is a journalist. We don’t care if they are or not. We can just look at what they did.

Lots of people claim that Harper Lee was not a novelist because she only wrote one novel. Okay. But no one ever disputes that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the greatest American novels!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Good Lord, Mindy:

Of *course* Harper Lee is a novelist, but there’s a huge difference between writing a novel and suggesting a word or turn of phrase to the novelist.

The latter analogous to what some people would describe as citizen journalists, and to my mind, that defines “journalist” so broadly as to render the word meaningless.

Again, I prefer citizen contributor.

Now, had some citizen uncovered something of public significance, researched it thoroughly and wrote/broadcast a riveting story about it, I would be happy to call that person a journalist and what they do as journalism.

But if someone sends in a press release about their service club’s car wash, or a photo of a wind-damaged tree, I’m afraid I’m enough of an elitist to say that person’s not a journalist to me.

Comment by Bill Doskoch

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