For the love of the job
On Friday, I went out after covering ASU’s Sparky transformation and had drinks with a couple of friends. When I was asked what I was going to school for by someone in the group there was an instantaneous groan when I told them journalism. It’s sad to say, that’s not an unusual reaction these days. Whether it be the fact that it’s one of the lowest-paying starting salaries for college grads or possibly articles showing journalists are accepting bribes for smear campaigns, the fourth estate seems to have taken a step down from its once honorable position in society.
We certainly don’t go into this job for the money, or the relaxed schedule. ‘Long hours and low pay’ is a staple phrase of almost every journalism professor I’ve had so far. Almost all of my colleagues and I believe there is a higher calling to the field. Hell, next to priesthood, journalism is one of the only fields explicitly mentioned in the first amendment of the constitution. There is substance to the idea that we, as reporters, have the ability to influence decisions in politics and business. And I don’t mean we do that intentionally or for personal gain, but I mean that in the sense that our diligent reporting has the ability to change the course of a person’s actions. That’s part of our job, but should not be our goal.
We shouldn’t aim to sway or pull an audience, As members of the media we have to understand our writing can affect decision-making, but not relish that power. In fact, we should almost fear that power and let that fear be the basis for our fact-checking. The public doesn’t believe in journalism anymore, and unfortunately it takes a lot longer to earn that trust than it does to lose it.
In today’s world with millions of tweets and blogs getting posted every day, and our immense capacity for information in the world, it’s important for us to realize we can no longer be called “gatekeepers of information”. While parts of our jobs have significantly changed in the digital era, that doesn’t mean it’s over. The gates of media content are now permanently pried open, and it’s our job as reporters to aggregate the information to our readers, giving them the need-to-know as fast as possible. The Cronkite speeches and Murrow monologues are gone. It’s sad to say, but it’s the reality. Now, we’re no longer going to be the first to inform, but instead the ones to show what information is pertinent to our respective audiences.
So after the griping and playful ribbing about my future job finished, I simply told the group at the bar what my goal as a journalist is: to deliver the the most accurate and truthful information possible.