Why do we do something? Fun? Money? An endless sense of responsibility? I can imagine using those three reasons to become a journalist. But they’re also the reasons I could never become one. (Not that anyone’s offering.)
As a child I hated journalists. I swore blind that I’d never become a journalist (or a politician). But in recent years, I’ve looked at journalism a little differently.
Sure, I Guess Journalism Can Be Fun
Journalism is just writing, after all. And it all depends on what you write. Sure, I’d love to write about games all day. But when does fun become something else? When you’re told to do it.
Perhaps I’m just contrary, but the idea of someone telling me to do something is draining. If I wanted to do it, I’d have already done it by now! I’m neither built to carry my own schedule nor capable of obeying orders. It took me forever to write a blog post for Laura when she asked.
Let’s just say, I’d have to be a damned good writer for an editor to keep paying me for zilch.
I’m a Bit of a People Pleaser
Others might call me a sheep. I call myself a sponge. I have no control over how my opinions change when someone tells me something. Like Mass Effect: Andromeda. It’s why I don’t read reviews anymore.
But there’s the other aspect. Where I actively panic when people don’t agree with me. I’m constantly second-guessing every opinion I have, even though I believe in it from deep within my gut. If I’m writing a review, I refuse to talk about it before I’ve got it posted.
Sure, traditional journalists don’t have to deal with comments underneath and they dictate opinions. But they have editors who do comment and insist you change things. And I’d either panic or lash out. Either of which would be career killers right there.
If I was a journalist, I’d want to be unswayed by anything but the facts. I’d want to be assertive and I’d want to be the one to dictate others’ opinions. Which are not properties I possess, as much as I wish I did.
I’d Never Survive
Seriously, I take my hat off to journalists who write because they have a moral compass that tells them the world needs to know. They’re the ones who put themselves in danger to show the world the secret wrongdoings of those who are supposed to protect us.
Now, I don’t have to just mean war reporters. But they risk death and mental illness daily. I also mean those who fight to expose corruption at the hearts of Governments. The ones to dig for the right reasons. They’re the reporters who disappear to become conspiracy theory fodder. Or are just ruined.
Here are two examples of those exceptional humans who went out of their way to make a difference for those without voices:
Multi-award-winning Marie Colvin is the first who comes to mind. She was an inspirational woman who reported on some of the worst atrocities in living memory. And died in her attempts to expose the murder of Syrian civilians at the hands of their own government.
And the photographer Kevin Carter, who won a Pulitzer for his famous photograph The Vulture and the Little Girl. Sadly, he too died in the line of duty. After seeing such horrors, he ended his own life. Just as much a victim of his job as Colvin.
How on earth could I dare to be a journalist when there are people out there making a difference? If I was a journalist, I’d have to be the kind who ruined themselves for it or I’d never be able to live with myself.
But I’m not that kind of person.
I Used to Hate Journalists
Sure, I hate some. I recently found out that they don’t have to be unbiased. But as with anyone, we all have different opinions. My opinions happen to differ greatly to those voices in the traditional media. Maybe that’s because I’m not their target audience. I don’t think anyone in my generation is.
But I don’t hate all journalists. Just as I’m trying to unlearn my hatred for all politicians.
When done right, journalists are the mouthpiece of the people. They see things we the public don’t have access to. We need them to help us make a balanced judgement about situations. It’s only when you mistake them for being unbiased that you come unstuck. There are humans typing those articles.
Roll Call of Things I’d Change if I was King of Journalism
Now, this post might seem overly positive about journalists, but I’ve still got my (major) problems with the way many operate.
- Paparazzi. They’re monsters. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration but they actively ruin famous people’s lives for what? Money? They literally do more harm than good.
- Scapegoats. As long as there have been humans, there have been scapegoats. Remember the witch hunts of throughout history? Or McCarthyism of the 40s and 50s? And it’s not stopped. Remember, the media picks and chooses what we should be scared of.
- Weaponised Emotive Language. Words are powerful and journalists abuse them like workhorses. Next time you watch the news, listen to how they frame a murder victim. Were they young, beautiful and innocent?
- ‘Year of the Shark’. Slow news weeks lead to journalists or their editors deciding to create new frenzies. Remember, they don’t have to lie, they just have to take a small problem and make it sound like a big one.
Journalism is one of those jobs where anyone with a keyboard or a camera can try their hand. But should they? I know I shouldn’t. I know the paparazzi shouldn’t.
But the inspirational people like Colvin and Carter have proven that there is a right way to use journalism. And they’re the ones who prove not just anyone can do it.