Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Superior" media and the joys of good journalism

A lecturer from our university once asked the class what sort of news media they read. When an unsuspecting student replied "Stuff," he was subsequently humiliated as though having stooped to the absolute lows of media degeneracy. While this was a pretentious question, and I by no means want to detract from because it fulfills a purpose of providing concise and easily accessible information on current events- we could all benefit from discovering the wonders of good quality print journalism (thus I suggest you should probably stop reading this right now).

I certainly do not profess to be any expert in the matter- my current exposure to esteemed news sources stretches little further than a daily browse through the New York Times website. But it is a wonderful and refreshing experience to read articles that are eloquently written, well-informed and look into the issues that are so frequently brushed over in our "if it bleeds, it leads" popular media culture. This is not to say that these accounts are always completely unbiased, as journalism is always targeted at an audience and, no matter how hard they try, in my opinion no one can ever write about salient issues objectively. Even a non-partisan observer has a viewpoint of some kind, and by attempting to present moral or political neutrality we are still subconsciously influenced by our agendas to some extent.

I have wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember. As a twelve year old I dreamed of jet-setting around the world to be there at the places where history was being made, in order to report them to the world, and, by writing them down, playing just a small part in solidifying them in human memory, for better or worse. While the power that journalism has to change things in a world that  (myself included) has so many times indifferently turned away from atrocities in the Balkans, or sat on our comfortable couches shocked at the abhorrence of genocide in Rwanda, is another moral conundrum in itself, we should at least not be allowed to plead ignorance.

So I will not distract anyone from reading decent journalistic material with my far inferior rant any longer, but will leave you with Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel's nine elements of journalism, and some of my favourite articles from the New York Times today- they are very thought-provoking.

  1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
  3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

Also, just to be completely pretentious, how cool would it be to sit in a Manhattan cafe in the early morning with an americano and a copy of the New York Times?

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