Journalism is a field which has been criticized heavily in recent memory. Whether it’s the validity of the political opinions pundits on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC have to say or the quality of work those in video games journalism do, the question of what these reporters, investigators, anchors, writers, pundits, editors, and interviewers do has come into question, going as far as to even question whether or not what a majority of these people do is even journalism. As someone who considers himself a journalist and aspires to reach a professional level, I understand the frustration that comes from that feeling of being fed bias or incorrect information. I also understand that this will cause anyone to question if the whole premise is even valid. However, I’m also quite offended for not only myself but other likeminded people who respect the work and knows the work that goes into the profession. The idea that we can communicate information to a bigger audience that may be unaware or misinformed is a powerful one. So I thought I would take the time to explain what journalism is, as most people don’t even know.
There are many definitions for journalism. Google says it’s “the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.” Merriam-Webster calls it “the activity or job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio.” I actually like this definition as it almost gets it right aside from limiting the practice to physical mediums and broadcasts. My guess is this is an old definition that doesn’t take into consideration the creation of the internet. However, my favorite definition and the one I consider to be the most accurate and inclusive is Wikipedia’s: Journalism is gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information related to the news to an audience. The most important aspect of this definition is the “gathering, processing, and dissemination” part. This indicates that there’s actually a three part process to this, which brings me to my first point. Though many working in the journalism field wear different hats at one time and do more than just one part of the field, Journalism is actually comprised of three different branches, Discovering, Reporting, and Analyzing.
The first branch, Discovering, is the one that gathers, collects, and investigates news. This is the part of the profession that finds the news, whether it’s through interviewing people of interest, contacting a source with insider knowledge, being present while the news happens, or simply reading it from another publication. Once they do find a story, however way they do, they then need to make sure the source is credible. This is often done by confirming the story with other sources. Once this has been successfully done, the next branch of journalism comes into play: Reporting.
The reporting branch of Journalism is the section that disseminates, dispels or delivers the news to the public, or that publication’s audience. This includes writers who post news stories on newspapers or online and reporters who tell the news to an audience via radio, television or online video. By this time, the writer of the story, whether delivered by themselves or an on-camera anchor or the like, has organized and edited the facts and details of the story into a cohesive format for the listener / reader to comprehend easily, making sure to keep any biases or assumptions out of the final report. Sometimes, the investigation and reporting branches are done simultaneously, resulting with the investigation being part of the story being reported. This is often known as Investigative Journalism or Investigative Reporting.
The final branch is Analyzing, which processes, deconstructs, and elaborates on news for the public. This often happens during the reporting branch but is often isn’t completed until after the reporting. Unlike the writing and editing process which focuses on making the story easy to understand, this process involves reading between the facts and details to decipher what the story is actually saying. This means that predispositions and opinions will unavoidably influence the result, and while not even the reporting branch is devoid of bias, it is not only inevitable but encouraged. These are represented with pundits and editorial writers.
This very article is an example of the three branches of Journalism. I investigated the definition of Journalism online from several sites before settling on the three presented here, then reported on the very basic explanation of the three aspects of journalism, and used my personal opinions to elaborate on the three definitions, which fulfills the analyzing portion of journalism, though it’s fair to call this whole piece an example of opinion-based journalism with investigation and facts presented first to set up the main point. I may do another post in the future about the problems, controversies, and challenges facing journalism but I feel this primer on the field was necessary first. So what do you think journalism is? Do you disagree with my interpretation? How about the official definitions I cited here? It’s okay if you do as sometimes things change as time goes on and older definitions may no longer apply. Let me know in the comment section. Peace and Love, Brothers and Sisters! Colorwind out.