The International Press Institute is holding a World Congress in Vienna and Bratislava on September 11-14, 2010. The title of their congress is “Thinking the Unthinkable: Are We Losing the News?” It appears to be yet another hand-wringing event where journalists talk to journalists about journalism.
Journalism is a totally unregulated profession. It always has been and it should always be so, even when it fails miserably to do its job.
The dirty little secret about journalism is that you don’t need any special training to call yourself a journalist. You don’t need a license, you don’t need to join a union, and heck, you don’t even need a job or income to call yourself a journalist.
So, if you would happen to wake up someday disgruntled with your miserable life, you could grab a pen and a paper and write a news story. Once finished, you could declare yourself a journalist. It’s that easy. Well, almost.
Here’s a quick history of journalism in America from a little book published several years ago by the Indiana University Press.*
When you write news, you’re supposed to provide your readers, viewers and listeners with useful and reliable information. Have you noticed that the information you get on television, in the newspapers and on websites is not always either useful or reliable? Some of it is biased, some incomplete and too much of it is just hot air.
To help clarify matters, I have identified four categories of information as it relates to the news business: 1. There is straightforward, factpbased information, 2. misinformation, 3. disinformation and 4. spinformation. I will more fully define each category.
“I want to be a reporter, but I don’t know what to write about!” was the comment from a young lady in an audience I spoke to recently. Her dilemma prompted me to start work on my next book tentatively titled, “1001 News Story Ideas for Citizen Journalists.”
There is more than one way to interview someone for a news story.
Some journalists take the role of an unfriendly, disbelieving inquirer who wants to catch the interviewee in some moment of confusion or expose him/her as a hypocrite, ignoramus or buffoon. I refer to this as “gotcha” journalism.
Some journalists take the role of a supportive, affable colleague so they don’t ask any tough questions that might embarrass the interviewee. This often called throwing softballs, but I call it “brownnose” journalism.
The really good journalists take the role of an objective, neutral interviewer with no agenda except to get the interviewee’s side of the story. This is called unbiased journalism.
The role you take as a journalist interviewing someone for a story is important, but there are other aspects of the journalist’s interview that will also help or hinder your quest for a complete story. The words used to formulate questions, the tone of voice used to ask them and the body language employed in the interview either contribute to or detract from a successful interview.
Originally posted 2010-04-16 17:59:17 -0400. Crossposted from RonRossToday. Bumped and promoted. Please give Dr. Ross a hearty welcome. We're happy to have him posting with us. :) -- GH
“What are you going to do when you grow up?” you ask your kids.
Most children don’t have a clue, so they answer with “fireman,” “policeman,” “doctor” or other such highly visible and seemingly exciting occupation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a child answer, “Journalist! I want to be a journalist!” The idea to be a journalist usually comes a little later as they experience their world and see the vast variety of career choices they actually have.
But why be a journalist? Here are four possible motives for being a journalist, and more particularly, a citizen journalist.