Why Does Journalism Matter To You?

Journalism is a profession that carries a great deal of weight and power in modern day society, as it has done since the first paper was published in 1666 (Barber).[1] However, the world of reporting and gossip on the events of the world has existed for much longer, perhaps since the earliest civilizations in humanity. To answer the question as to why journalism matters to me, one must first look at what the definition of journalism is. According to the American Press Institute[2], journalism can be defined as : ‘The activity of gathering, assessing, creating and presenting news and information.’

This definition encapsulates why journalism matters to me. Journalism is the main method through which the general public can learn about the events happening not only in their local community, but across the world. Furthermore, with this knowledge, the general public can hold politicians, businesses and even journalists themselves to account and ensure that they know that nothing can be put over their heads. As Bell (2004)[3] posits, journalism matters as it historically emerged with the growing demand for the populous to be able to express themselves freely, and for those tasked with delivering the news in written format, to be able to do so without impediment. Journalism has over the years ensured that power has been held to account, be it through the reporting on the Panama Papers, the investigations of cover ups in Rotherham and Rochdale, and in exposing corruption. This has been done through detailed research, the presenting of evidence and the analysis of said evidence, allowing the readers to assess where things are going and where things might go. In this role, ‘journalism plays an irreplaceable role in the democratic process.’

Journalism matters as it reminds the general populous that those in far distant lands and even their own neighbours are real people with real lives and emotions, something that is especially important in this age where it is incredibly easy to disassociate with others and their struggles and successes. As Marr (2004)[4] and Silverstone (2007)[5] state journalism must be there to remind readers of others, of their struggles, of their successes. That though they might live on the other side of the world, or down the street, the individual and the collective all have thoughts, feelings and interests and worries. Journalism helps bring these concerns to the fore, in times when there are great times and bad times, journalism can provide the necessary moral and empathetic edge that might otherwise be missing in the world. This is especially important when one considers the fact that though through the use of social media, as a civilisation we are more connected to different parts of the world more than in any other period in history, we are increasingly feeling lonely and isolated from one another.[6] Journalism when done with good faith can remind people of that which connects us.

Furthermore, journalism has alongside most of society experienced great change over the past decade as technology has changed the way society as a whole interacts with one another, especially through the development of iPhones, and far superior technological devices, and the increased use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  As more people take to social media, and to the internet, they are increasingly finding it easier to access something that they once would have had to buy a paper to learn about. Consequently, journalism has had to slowly adapt to this changing landscape, this has subsequently developed something known as networked journalism. Networked journalism as described by Beckett (2008)[7] brings the audience-the reader- and the journalist-usually someone working for a news outlet, though not always – together, where the audience can provide resources to the journalist, be they video clips, social media postings, or impressions from the ground- something which has been used to detail some seriously shocking things in the Syrian Civil War and the wider Arab Spring- and thus allow the journalist to produce a more compelling and accurate narrative which can then be given to the wider audience base. This it can be argued has democratised journalism, and made it much more accessible to the people, thus potentially authenticating it beyond the usual scope, as the audience can now more easily provide the news and ensure it is presented accurately. This is something that has also perhaps encouraged the general populous to give their own hand a try at journalism, as social media and greater access to technology has made it easier for them record what is happening and post it online for general consumption, though that does raise other questions about who exactly is a journalist.

Journalism matters to me as it is supposed to present information to the people, to enable them to form their own opinion about what is happening in the world and to remind them that others also go through their own struggles and successes in life. However, it cannot be denied that recently journalism has taken quite the hounding. With the advent of the Trump presidency and Brexit, there has been concern over whether journalists are really in touch with the common man, the very people they are supposed to stand for, or if they are more aloof than even the politicians, stuck up high in their elite bubbles. As Merritt (1999)[8] and Viner (2013)[9] note there seems to have been a disparity between what the public want to know, and what those within the journalism profession feel needs to be told. This has led to both sides being at loggerheads, and one side accusing the other of being out of touch or bordering toward something dangerous. Consequently, this has given rise to more partisanship within society and the media, as all sides look to divide society into sections or tribes, and pit them against one another. This has led to the creation in the west, at least of the term ‘Fake News’ to be used whenever someone on the opposing side of the political or social spectrum says something that disagrees with your world view, which is most definitely not conducive to encouraging empathy, curiosity or anything positive. Instead, it encourages anger, rage, and confirmation bias to develop, which goes against the core values of what journalism should stand for.  

To conclude, journalism matters to me because it is the way that the people can truly learn about what is happening in the wider world, which can allow them to form opinions about these events. Journalism can, when done properly, also help remind people of how there are other people in the world going through the same sorts of issues as them, though in different varieties. It is an important tool that can do a lot of good, and with the changing nature of society with social media and technology increasingly playing big roles, journalism is increasingly becoming more of an interactive tool, allowing readers to participate in it. Whilst, there have been some troubling developments as of late, there is still a chance for journalism to continue to play a positive and inspiring role within society, if those involved remember what its core values are.

Barber, P., n.d. A Brief History of Newspapers. [Online]
Available at: http://www.historicpages.com/nprhist.htm
[Accessed 22 June 2018].

Beckett, C., 2008. SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Bell, E., 2004. Post Industrial Journalism. [Online]
Available at: https://towcenter.org/research/post-industrial-journalism-adapting-to-the-present-2/
[Accessed 21 June 2018].

Harris, R., 2015. The Loneliness Epidemic. [Online]
Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-loneliness-epidemic-more-connected-than-ever-but-feeling-more-alone-10143206.html
[Accessed 22 June 2018].

Institute, A. P., n.d. American Press Institute: What Is Journalism. [Online]
Available at: https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/
[Accessed 21 June 2018].

Marr, A., 2004. My Trade: A Short History Of British Journalism. London: Macmillan.

Merritt, D., 1999. Public Journalism and Public Life: Why Telling The News Is Not Enough. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Silverstone, R., 2007. Media and Morality: On The Rise Of The Mediapolis. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Viner, K., 2013. The Rise Of The Reader. [Online]
Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/09/the-rise-of-the-reader-katharine-viner-an-smith-lecture
[Accessed 20 June 2018].

[1] http://www.historicpages.com/nprhist.htm   accessed on 22/06/18

[2] https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/  accessed on 21/06/18

[3] https://towcenter.org/research/post-industrial-journalism-adapting-to-the-present-2/ accessed on 21/6/18

[4]Marr, A.  (2004) “My trade: a short history of British journalism” pp. 1-6 and 50-55. Macmillan. London.

[5] Silverstone, R. (2007) ‘Media and Morality: On The Rise of the Mediapolis.’ Polity Press. Cambridge.

[6] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-loneliness-epidemic-more-connected-than-ever-but-feeling-more-alone-10143206.html  accessed on 22/06/18

[7] Beckett, C. (2008) ‘SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World.’ Blackwell Publishing.

[8] Merritt, D. (1999) ‘Public Journalism and Public Life: Why Telling The News Is Not Enough.’ Oxford University Press. Oxford

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/09/the-rise-of-the-reader-katharine-viner-an-smith-lecture  accessed on 20/6/18

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