What Is Journalism?

"What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story."

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

When asked, “What is journalism?” a variety of answers can come to mind, the story a news reporter tells could be journalism, or even an average citizen posting updates on their social media accounts could be considered journalism. Down the News Hole states that, “journalism is what traditionally armed we the people with the knowledge we needed to be our own governors.” With this in mind, we can identify three main points to the role of journalism.

According to The Forth Estate, one role of journalism is to inform citizens, “no governing body can be expected to operate well without knowledge of the issues on which it is to rule, and rule by the people entails the people should be informed." Another is to expose people to opinions contrary to their own. When you live in a particular area, you and those around you may be limited to the views and ideas of those only in that community, but once you are exposed to journalism your viewpoints and ideas could change when you are able to see what others are out there. Journalism is also known to foster a sense of community. For example, if you live in a community that has strict beliefs and values and you feel as though you may not fit in, journalism first gives you that opportunity to be aware of the other concepts that exist in the world and it also allows you to gain that sense that there are people out there like you and a feeling of belonging.

It is often argued if social media reporting can be called journalism. There are exceptions but I do believe that social media has a great impact on what we call journalism today. In current times, journalism containing breaking news has provided information quickly to those who are unaware of the story. One example is the Boston Marathon, “armature sleuths immediately begin digging for and publishing information online about the bombing and ensuing manhunt, quickly amassing large audiences. Users on Reddit, Twitter and other online platform that didn’t exist a decade and a half ago participated in the news gathering process, sometimes running in tandem with or even ahead of tradition news outlets, but not always pausing to verify information." I know for me personally this has great significance, one of my close family friends and his new wife were actually at the Boston Marathon competing when this happened. I was unaware of the bombing until I saw a Facebook post from him stating that he and his wife were alright, they had already finished the race and were a safe distance away from the explosion. Nonetheless, they were shocked by the loud noise and the complete chaos of those around them. It is an experience that they will never forget and one for me too. Without social media, I wouldn’t have found out about the Boston Marathon attacks until much later and I know my family and friends would have been worried sick hoping that they were okay.

This just goes to show that social media is much more than a platform for information, "it's a whole new force of amazing, raw and close-to-the action footage and there is a lot more of it, in the old days we would find one image of someone's feet being beaten with a cable, but now we get 20 of them. Although it is disturbing, we can begin to see patterns and to build a better picture of the scale of abuse – and that has got to be a good thing for the film." Average citizens like you and I can add so much information to newscasts or documentaries, but one reason that it is not fully accepted by other is simply due to the credibility of it all. Information can be faked, one main downside to videos found on social media is first the provenance, it takes time and money to check that it is real and not faked. “There are far fewer reports to interrogate the spin and the press releases, so the likelihood that they get presented as legitimate ‘news’ has become much greater” (Down the News Hole). Videos that are used from social media sites can greatly add on to newscasts and documentaries, citizen journalists can act as an add-on reporter meaning that their views and experiences can help to show what is going on to many other people.

Overall journalism has recently become a much broader area, the purpose has always been the same to inform citizens, expose people to opinions and to foster a sense of community. But with all the advancements in technology average citizens have the opportunity to show their views, ideas and their stories much quicker and to a much larger audience.


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