Twice this week when people heard I just graduated with my journalism degree, they said to me, “Oh, maybe I’ll see you on T.V. someday!”
This is a huge pet peeve of mine: People automatically equating “journalist” with “television reporter.”
Photo by flikr user stekelbes
I’ve always wanted to be a writer and in recent years developed an interest in multimedia (including shooting and editing video), but I have never had an interest in doing stand-ups in front of the camera. I’ve always wanted to be a writer or run an editor at a publication. While print and television reporters may employ the same research and interview techniques, there is still a difference in what we do.
I don’t consider it an insult or anything — I’m just not a television reporter; I chose the magazine and multimedia route. I, too, watch the news (in fact, I have CNN Newsroom on right now) and I have great respect for the reporters. Several of friends who took the telecommunications track at UF.
What upsets me the most about the “maybe I’ll see you on TV”-comment is the reasons WHY the public automatically makes this assumption. Is it a sign or symptom of the death of print journalism?
In an age of the 24-hour news cycle, smart phone applications and social media, does the public forget about the journalists whose faces they don’t see on TV? They don’t realize that it is because of a journalist that they are getting news updates sent to their phone. Or that because of a journalist that some of them still get that black and white thing called a newspaper, or that colorful, glossy thing called a magazine.
I noticed this plaque on the second floor on Weimer Hall the other day and I was surprised that I had never heard of the Journalist’s Creed. You’d think these poignant words by Walter Williams, who fought so hard for a journalism education and training, would be repeated to us students over and over again. It’s like the Hippocratic Oath for physicians and the Apostles Creed for Christians; it defines us and our responsibilities.
And I suppose that while our professors have never made us recite these very words, they have through their teachings etched the essential meaning of them into our hearts. And as we pass from journalism students to journalism professionals, it is essential we keep these words on our hearts and in our minds.
For the benefit of others who had not heard of it, this is Williams’ 1914-personal statement, now known as The Journalist’s Creed:
I believe in the profession of journalism.
I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust.
I believe that clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.
I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.
I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.
I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocketbook is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.
I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that the supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.
I believe that the journalism which succeeds best — and best deserves success — fears God and honors Man; is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power, constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance and, as far as law and honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship; is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.
The Reynolds Institute at the University of Missouri, where Walters finally founded a journalism school, has more information on the creed’s history and relevance today.
Formal photography training or not, there’s a chance that sometime in your journalism career you’ll be asked to take your own photos.
For his article, Easy tips for improving your vacation photos, Douglass K. Daniels of the Associated Press interviewed professional photographers for advice on how the regular person could improve their photos.
Because the suggestions are basic and aimed at amateurs, I think they are good reminders or starting points for non-photojournalists who are suddenly expected to take pictures for blogs or publication. Stories with art draw more attention, so it is in your interest that you be able to act as the photographer sometimes.
The rules are pretty simple: action is better than posed, get as close as possible, hold the camera still and be aware of the background. Read the article for details.
A story about minding background: My high school journalism teacher used to tell us a cautionary tale about a yearbook that ran a photo of the principal who happened to be standing in front of a sign that read “CLASS OF of 1999” (or whatever the year). He was covering up the C and L with his body so the sign read “ASS of 1999.” Needless to say he wasn’t very happy when he saw the photo in the book. The people in your photos also wouldn’t be too happy if they looked like aliens with trees or extra limbs growing out of their head.
Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing the musical comedy Hairspray and then write about it for INsite.
As my friend and I settled into our seats, she asked me, “Are you going to be like Rory Gilmore or write a nice review?”
[For those of you who may not have been fans of the former WB show Gilmore Girls, the character Rory writes a highly opinionated review of school ballet for the Yale Daily News. Rightfully, she likens the uncoordinated lead to a hippo. The episode is titled “Die Jerk” because the ballerina obviously gets upset.]
I once heard someone say, “No one wants to read a negative review.”
But why? I suppose if you were planning out a publication and ran across a bad show, you might try to find a better show to write about. But I think reviewers should be able to be candid. And if the show, the food, the service, whatever was bad, the reader has a right to know based on the review.
I know the relationship between advertisers and publications are precarious, but money shouldn’t dictate content. I think what separates a review from a summary is that it injects opinion; and what separates a review from an advertorial is that it is genuine so it doesn’t sound like a cheerleader wrote it.
Anyway, I didn’t really run into this with Hairspray because I thought it was great (and they weren’t paying for coverage, I even bought my own ticket). I was just wondering what other people thought about reviews - theater reviews, restaurant reviews, movie reviews - and in what light you think they should or shouldn’t cast their subjects.
So, what are your thoughts?
Students of all majors can benefit from internships. And my friends studying the sciences are even able to secure research positions to help them gain experience, build their resume and decide if they’re entering the right field. But for journalism majors, experience as an undergraduate is practically a requirement.
Other students can just read about what they’re going to do after graduation when they get a job. But journalism majors? If we’re not being a journalist now while we’re in college, we can probably graduate but we certainly won’t get a job in journalism. While other students are preparing for their careers, we are starting ours.
I have to admit that this is really frustrating for me. As a student, I need to do well in my classes. As a young journalists, I need to be reporting. These two needs do not peacefully coexist. News events conflict with classes. Time spent working on journalistic assignemnts cuts into time that could be spent on studying. As a student, I want to take avantage of other opportunites and activities at the university that are unrelated to journalism but there’s not time leftover. I’m torn between student and journalist.
My pretty GPA and lack of clips clearly shows that I am a better student than journalist. Unfortunately, news organizations only care about the latter. It was embarassing to be at the job and internship fair with barely anything to show for myself when I know I am capable of great things. What kills me are the great pieces I wrote for class and never got published.
I’m doing an editorial internship this semester, and I’m doing it for credit so that I could make time to be a journalist. This summer, I am going to forgo a very nice paid non-journalism job in order to focus on building my portfolio. Hopefully it’s not to late for this student to become a journalist.