***Before reading, please note that the following rant is entirely a biased article about journalism. The writer of this rant is a journalist after all. At least he claims to be one. Now back to our original Mastering the Craft. Enjoy.***
You have to be crazy to be a journalist. Now, I realize what you’re all thinking: “But Jim, everyone thinks that about their jobs.” And you’d probably be right. Please, just hear me out and take a few minutes to read my irrational reasoning.
In order to understand the mind of a journalist, you have to understand what they do on a day-to-day basis. I could be all fancy with you and say that “we’re the protectors of truth” or that we “keep politicians honest” or even that “we report Fake News.”
While that might be true, here is what I personally think we do:
• We tell the public what happened at a government meeting, school board meetings, an event, something else of public interest.
• We let you know what’s going to happen in the future. Examples of this include the Community Calendar, fundraising opportunities, concerts, hot button issues taking place at a public meeting, and other events of public interest.
• We bring to light issues that might have been kept buried. That’s investigative journalism and you have to wear a fedora and have a Chicago or New York Mobster Era accent when you question individuals.
• We are on our own side. What I mean by that is, when we write an article we are emotionally detached. We do not share our opinions with our readership. Admittedly, this is one of the tougher parts of our job. Some succeed in doing this while others fail. But hey, we’re only human.
Anyone can snap a picture and/or write an article about a government meeting. In today’s age anyone can report on the news through a blog or creating a Facebook Group and calling it “(insert name) News.” It’s easy, but what’s not easy is what you do with that knowledge you gained when you attended that meeting.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” stated the fictional ill-fated Uncle Ben.
If you want a quote from a better source than a comic book character, I’ll use the one I found at http://www.americanpressinstitute.org.
“The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds,” states the website.
Sometimes people don’t like reading the truth. I know, you’re probably wanting me to reference Jack Nicholson but I refuse to do it. It’s true though, that old phrase, the truth hurts. Sometimes people don’t like to read about what was said during a meeting. I remember one time I used a quote from a clerk-treasurer a few years back. The town had to remove the flower pots in front of the downtown bar because inebriated patrons were using it for things other than horticulture. She called me out on it on one of my last days at that paper. “Why’d you have to quote me on that?” I replied back, “Hey, you were the one that said it.”
Being a journalist is a tough gig. You’re mostly working on your own, on a deadline, and constantly holding back personal bias. Sometimes we witness the aftermath of some of humanity’s worst actions. Fatalities in car accidents, court cases involving some of the worst things imaginable, events in Michigan. Okay, that last one was a personal bias and used for comedic purposes. But you get the point. Most of the time we don’t receive the kudos and thanks for doing the job. Sometimes all we receive is criticism and angry voicemails telling us how poor a job we did.
So yes, we have to be crazy to do what we do.
To be fair, we also get to know the people that make our coverage area great. We get to see the few individuals attempting to make their communities better. We get to cover the fundraising efforts, the not-for-profits trying to provide children the essential items they lack, the prayer breakfasts, and a plethora of other activities and events that balance out the bad.
Sure, you have to be crazy to be a journalist. But, speaking as a journalist, I have enjoyed these past four years of insanity. Here’s hoping there’s more where it came from.
Wednesday, March 13 was “Thank a Journalist Day.” If you didn’t read it in the newspaper you most likely didn’t even know it existed. It was declared and signed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. The day was created by students at Ball State University and asked people to participate and state why they believe journalism was important.
In closing, I would ask this: if you are at a meeting/event/sporting event/ribbon cutting/or other various public activity and see someone with a recorder or notepad, go up (after the event, we’re working after all) and shake their hand and say thanks.
Or you could buy the local newspaper. Because, come on, there’s much more in it than Sudoku and Family Circus.