Did you know that 80 % of Americans consume news every day, 50 % choosing Facebook and Twitter as their main source? Despite the cornucopia of distinct media, there are certain underlying principles of good journalism that remain the same.
People have always wanted to stay aware. Beginning with acta diurna or the daily news of ancient Rome that were displayed every day on the stone and ending with today’s Internet abundance – journalism has a long history.
The idea of journalism has undergone major transformations. Just a couple thousand years ago (a long time for one human, but a blink of an eye for humanity), in China news called Dibao were produced only by the government and distributed by the local authorities. Nowadays, anybody can create news; all they need is an Internet access and an opinion.
Of course, in the modern era people have unlimited opportunities to express themselves and do good journalist work. Nonetheless, before you embark on this exciting journey, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the main principles of this occupation or, shall I say, vocation.
It is not surprising to find out that the first English newspapers were unbelievably biased. Even nowadays it is the case, as it often happens so that conservatives lean towards conservative media never allowing themselves the luxury of reading a different point of view, and vice versa.
The New York Herald in 1835 started as the first independent English newspaper. The journalists tried to remain neutral in political preferences and report upon facts, and not upon sentiments. Their goal was to create a kind of source that would not sow dissent, but, on the contrary, unite people.
The newspapers started to become national in the 19th century, and it further expanded the role of the newspaper as a uniting factor. It is a powerful means of constructing the universal sentiment around burning issues that politicians in countries all around the world happily utilize.
It is, therefore, crucial that you as a journalist remain objective in your judgments. By slanting the truth towards your personal preferences, you distort the reality, thus, leading people astray. Being objective is your professional obligation that you must always uphold.
It is clear that as a journalist it is not your job to make up stories out of thin air. You are not a novelist, although even novelists have to derive their inspiration from somewhere. This is not the facts that I am talking about here, but rather the way of presenting them.
As a journalist, you should work hard to develop your own style. Even though there are certain constraints laden upon you by the professional duty, you do not have to be dry and frozen. Finding a way to make the facts tasty at the same time staying objective and sympathetic is a sign of true journalistic mastery.
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, he laid foundation of people’s struggle for free speech. He gave them the tool, the printed word that allowed a thought to multiply, making it ever more powerful. Now people could reach much farther with their ideas, thus triggering a wider change.
Because journalists possess such an incredible power to shape thoughts, it is essential that they present both sides of the story. If they did not manage to interview one of the sides, they must not omit this information, even if it is going to make their article seem less reliable.
People have a right to know whether the presented story is complete from all angles or not. It would be a bonus if you could also explore the event in a more profound context by examining the past phenomena that led to the current result.
You are probably familiar with the notion of three estates from school. Cue French Revolution. However, did you know about the existence of the fourth estate? If not, then congratulations, if you are reading this article, you are interested in joining it. Journalists are the fourth estate, as an 18th century Irish politician Edmund Burke once wittingly observed, causing the label to stick for centuries.
Journalists are special people, as their job is a never-ending struggle to shift the balance of power. They give voice to those silenced by the system, to those, who normally would not get a chance to speak. Their job is to retract attention from the shiny to the grimy.
John Milton, one of the most recognized English poets (yes, the one who wrote Paradise Lost) in 1644 completed his Areopagitica – a speech that advocated for a then non-existent idea of free speech. Apart from being a fantastic author, he was one of the first advocates of the journalistic independence.
However, freedom of speech always should involve a healthy dose of restraint. A journalist has to be very tactful in their writing and cautious about drawing preliminary conclusions. Otherwise, they might destroy the lives of innocent people or even put them in a mortal danger.
Journalism is a serious responsibility. An idea is hard to kill, and this job allows you plant ideas into people’s heads. You need to make sure that they are not pernicious for an individual or society at large before throwing out those seeds.
With the emergence of investigative journalism in the early 20th century, it has become undeniably important to be careful in your writing. Investigative journalism concerns itself with the big world of politics and power, of industries and corporations. If you want your work on those controversial and often taboo topics to be taken seriously, it is critical to triple check all of your statements.
Moreover, you hold not just a personal accountability for the quality of your research, but also the societal one for its impact. Being a journalist means to instigate change and inspire people to push towards it. If you want to be a good journalist, you need to assume this responsibility the society admits on you.
An Inspiring Conclusion
People have always strived to verbalize their feelings about the world events in a written form. Just remember Corantos that enjoyed great popularity in Europe of the 17th century. Those Medieval journalists aspired to make sense of the tumultuous times that befell them despite the monarchies’ desire to infuse Corantos with pure propaganda.
Now the US media enjoys unprecedented freedom that is often taken for granted. However, did you know that the first newspaper ever published in the Americas, namely, Public Occurrences, was shut down just after the first edition by the royal order?
As you know, it was a bad idea for the British government to suppress American freedom. They were so short-sighted as to annoy Benjamin Franklin by imprisoning his older brother because of what he published in the New-English Courant. Seriously, the British underestimated American predisposition for having free press. They even put it in their first amendment to dispel any doubts.
The freedom that journalists enjoy now is a result of a long bloody struggle. Adhering to the principles listed above is a sign of respect to their perseverance and sacrifice. Moreover, I want to stress that these rules apply not only to written press, but also to the news that get reported on radio, TV or the Internet. Regardless of what mode you prefer, adhering to the proposed code is a must if you want to have a fulfilling career in this sphere.