As I'm sitting here, right about sunset, the blood-red light illuminating the walls of my room, I keep pondering over the reason of the brutality and treachery of man. For years now, we have been more and more flooded with news, do we like it or not, combined with the effect of the events themselves. Be it the growing-up-factor or just beginning to see the big picture, right outside the frames, of the news – from Putin's elections to prince Harry's clubbing – my idealistic approach to Journalism as a saviour has started to decrease. Reverse result of what was dreamed, ironically.

Surprisingly enough, it still makes me wonder why did I go for Journalism myself. The career? The money? The investigative side? Controversy? Highly doubt it. What possible reason could there be for me to sacrifice myself to long hours, often low-paid, nerve-wrecking stress and many dangerous assignments? Purely the idealistic drift cant be sufficient to keep me in my self-rape heading, can it?

 

“Journalism is more than an exciting profession. At its best, by defining what millions believe and holding power to account, it informs and reinforces democratic values. At its worst it distorts and manipulates, so eroding the distinction between truth and falsehood and promoting prejudice.” - The University of Kent website

 

Yes, it can. The idealistic idea of Journalism is so subtle and powerful it takes stupidity to actually confront this issue - by thinking about it. It is the questions like “why am I doing this?” and “how am I supposed to do this?” which distract reporters and Doctors of Journalism from work, as they're being shot at or are solving some humongous election-scam. So is Journalism a search for excitement and adrenaline, or just money through a story?

 

This general perception now – that Journalism is dangerous and must include shock-value to change the world (or even just to be read) – has transformed the trade from 'informative' to 'just another drama-show on the TV'. From photo-editing to 'yellow' newspapers, when stripped, it all revolves around hard currency. Nobody seems to really care anymore, not about the news nor the quality.

 

Our modern-day Journalism has two errors: over-coverage (however, a whole other matter arises from our technology and skills to filter news, which has been adjusting itself to match the progress) and excessive guidelines combined with modern technology (amateur Journalism combined with the digital-era). These both have helped to the final, steady and slow decline of the trade, what few still consider important. It has turned to Internet, low-quality images, horrible grammar and arrogant attitude towards decency – who needs any online anyways? Agreed - innovation and progress are important, but what are we sacrificing?

 

Could this be the reason why people around me seem ignorant of shocking news like Putin's power-play and the mere fact of Europe's dependency on, oh-so pretty much everyone else (OPEC, Russia, Brazil)? Why news-channels now have McDonald's commercials and episode-trailers in between? Is the 'hide your head in the sandpit' the best description of the intellectually crippled generations now growing up, taking their opinions and principles from distorted, propaganda-like news sources? Is this the reason why major problematic issues, like Russia's ego-maniac-spike has been ignored? Many questions, few answers. Few, at best – correction.

 

The power of Journalism has not been realised only recently – propaganda was the second thing to be printed, right after the Bible (or the first then...?). That said, it is hard to imagine a perfect news-reel: be it national, share-holders or company-owned – someone will still be able and will use it to their own good. The best and last example – the presidential race of the USA 2008. “Was Obama made blacker in a commercial!?”

 

Obscene, I say.

 

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” - George B. Shaw

 

I admit, that I might be stuck in old traditions that cannot keep up with progress and need updating. Progress would definitely match with the growing problem of over-exposure – we make things easier to be selected out of a haystack, over-exposure is just how much bigger the selection gets. People get what people want. But does that mean they can ignore what they should know? The oil-dependency, sabotage of electric-powered cars, nuclear race, net neutrality, etc – is news so much about currency that these can just be covered up (yet still many seem to know – the power of internet?)? Has Freedom of speech turned into a simple form of prostitution?

 

By now, I have rather forgotten what I originally wanted to talk about. Political tensions in Europe and related, leading it in with Journalism – most likely. What surprises me, however, is that I have no possible answers or solutions to these questions I have posed. Any other extreme of what we have now would be even more horrible. The part called 'medium' is rarely accepted in our capitalistic, business-regulated world. And proudly (hopefully) I will soon become a microscopic part of the industry, to be able to interpret it and get a clue of things. I'll see you soon, on the other side.

 

What could I do? What could we do? The world does seem such a horrible place, that can't help but peek at the sandpit, and see it rather tempting...

 

05.03.08; Luxembourg

 

Why did you choose Journalism? What do you expect out of it?

Comments

A very entertaining article Jaak. I largely agree that the journalism industry itself is a prisoner to the confines of its own success and does, as you say, seem to be choking with over-coverage and a multitude of technology meaning that news is accessible to everyone at any time. This in itself can only be a good thing, but the value of the news stories are certainly questionable at times.

However, as King James I originally said in a round about way 'No news is good news'. This should not apply to today's society in my opinion. If it were not for over-coverage of stories through channels such as BBC 24 and Sky News, or webpages and RSS feeds, the accessibility of the news to the general public would be restricted. Thus the vicious circle continues of an apparently impartial trade losing its core values.

With regard to 'sticking your head in the sand' over political tensions in Europe and elsewhere; the idea might not be so daft. After all, it is fair to say that there will never be any solutions, because in my eyes solutions are not sought by us humans. On the contrary, power, conflict and greed are inscribed deep in each and every one of psyches. The Carribbean sounds nice, or maybe even Le Touquet. Let's just hope there's no shingle.....

I hope you're not preaching about poor grammar with that comment - only you've made a "horrible" spelling mistake in a comment elsewhere, Mr Pardi!

We're all human. : )

Where's the typo? I'll go fix it.

Who asked if Obama was made blacker in a commercial?

This was quite an interesting read. It provides much, much food for thought. But, to answer your ending questions...

Why did I choose Journalism?

Call it optimism, mind you, but I think it's up for a journalist to accept something. Some or a lot of the issues that a journalist will investigate and cover in their life time, may have no interest to them or of them. And yet they investigate the story anyway.

Just for the money? I wouldn't agree to that. There's a million different ways to earn money out there. Journalists pick their profession for their own distinct reason.

So, why journalism?

I picked it because I want to know my world. It's our world, and it's what we make of it, but we can't make anything of a world we don't know. Just as people can't really quite love their country, unless they know and understand their country. Journalism is THE profession that investigates, goes out of it's way to know things. Anything. And anything is apart of our world, our age. Can you know the world just from watching the news all the time? Well, not really. All the newspapers and broadcasting companies report differently, and only report on certain thigns for their own reasons. But even then, could anyone in today's world afford to hear all the news all the time? A journalist can, in fact, they make it their life's work to do so.

I want to know our world, in hopes that I will take away from it a greater understanding. Of life? Of what it means to have a dream? Of the human race? I don't know. But I do know, that I want to know. I want to be a journalist because I love to write, and I want to know. And the best way to know things, is to find them out for yourself, and experience it first hand.

To me that is the precious thing journalists get to do: see things for themselves. They see the war fighting, they watch the politician stand, they look out over the ruins of a natural disaster with their own two eyes and etc.

Life is a journey, but you're not going to go very far staying in one place now are you? Journalism can take you anywhere, and it's that potential I love and aspire to.

What do I expect out of it?

That's a question that can either be made complex or simple. I expect to be paid and I expect to go places and I expect to have to report on things yes. But what does a person really expect out of a profession?

I don't think you can 'expect' anything. Journalism isn't a static profession from which you can get to know enough to know what to expect out of it. It's fluid and changes with the times. Journalists 200+ years ago couldn't expect the same things our of it as we expect our of it today, and not just because of changing technology, but also changing attitudes, changing morals, changing respects.

So if there's anything I could safely expect out of Journalism, I could expect it to never stop changing.

One other thing though:

Has Freedom of speech turned into a simple form of prostitution?

I found this an incredible question to ask, because I had found myself asking this about a fiction writer who's story was completely grotesque, and he merely threw the "Don't like it, don't read" excuse at my review. It always had me wondering of those who abuse the freedom of speech to defy the will of all, or if freedom of speech is something that could be abused.

Let me make an example of people who stand in public places and swear just for the sake of it, then get removed cry that their freedom of speech was violated.

The thing is, and this is just opinion, soceity runs on a select civil code of decency, one that changes with the age. Kind of like an unwritten rule. (not to be confused with censorship) You have the right to say what you want, but you have a moral obligation to present what you want to say, in a manner that is suitable for your auidence or potential audience.

In general, I think it's just too much to say that what becomes of a right, and how it is used in general, defines what it is. Freedom of speech itself is too much a precious thing to be slandered by how it is used here and there. Examples of grotesque and deplorable use of the right could never shadow what it is has done throughout history. Freedom of speech is what it is, and we as citizens use it, how we use it, in no consequence to it's basic definition.

 

 

A study in the 90s found that, on average, journalists were less happy professionally speaking than people working in genetics. The link, many journalists felt, between quality journalism and being successful in the industry had been broken by commercial imperatives. They were pressurized to do more with less time and as a result felt they weren't able to do what they went into journalism for in the first place (see Flat Earth News for a full discussion of this). Those in genetics, however, despite the extreme commercialisation of their industry (think big pharma), still felt that success and quality of work were aligned, and therefore were much happier in their jobs. (source: The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt)

So, to turn your question, why do it? Why don't we all drop out now and enrol on a genetics course?

I think the answer lies in a thought experiment invented by Robert Nozick that goes like this: If there were a machine that could stimulate your brain in such a way to create an entirely flawless reality for you in which you were perfectly happy, would you hook yourself up to it, Matrix-stlye? Nozick's contention was that if happiness or pleasure were the only human good, as utilitarians would have it, we'd all answer 'yes' to the above. But we don't. Why? I think it's because there's more to life than happiness. We don't want to have the wool pulled over our eyes, and we're willing to trade a little of our own well being to live a life more in touch with reality.

Whether journalism is the best means of doing that is another question, but I think it at least explains the motive, if not fully justifying it.

Fear and Loathing in Journalism: a Savage Journey to the Public's Cross