What is a journalist?

Leo Quale, Opinion Editor

The term “journalist” refers to a person who writes for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or prepares news to be broadcast. 

But it means more than that. 

A journalist should be an ally of the people and a guardian of truth, they should report the reality no matter what beliefs they hold dear. If they do not know the facts, they should do everything in their power to find them. 

A journalist’s credibility is what defines them, and as soon as it is corrupted by bias or traded for monetary gain, credibility is lost and with that, the title “journalist” should be stripped away.

 As someone who strives to be a journalist, I feel a disconnection with the media right now. 

As hypocritical as it feels I must advise my colleagues and friends to ignore the media. Journalists should be watchdogs, not lap dogs and as it is now, the mass media can’t be expected to report the truth, much less hold the title of “news organization.” From TV stations claiming World War Z is downtown Chicago to edited footage of riots, it is abundantly clear that we cannot rely on them anymore. 

But that doesn’t mean you should stay complacent, do your part and find out the truth. I wish I could list unbiased reputable news sources for that truth right here, but I can’t, you must be your own source. 

Be aware of bias by using sites that either show or list bias of news stations or articles. One article won’t tell the whole story, one company won’t show both sides and one report won’t inform you. You must find your information everywhere, you must look at both sides and decide for yourself, don’t let anyone tell you their truth. 

Find out for yourself. 

As much as social media was not a reputable news source in the past, now it holds most breaking news and footage. While not all of it is unedited and some even fake, it’s another outlet you can utilize. Still be careful, check comments and check other accounts to make sure you’re not being misled.

 I now want to address my fellow student journalists. For those of you truly care about the truth, now is the time to show it, if you call yourself a journalist you will use your resources to prove that. Fact check, then fact check your fact-checking, the internet is a confusing place, but if you wish to report the truth, you must find it. 

The ultimate fear of a good journalist should be misrepresenting a situation. And if you can’t find the truth in the periphery, dive in, put yourself in the middle of the fray like every media great has done. Reporters who stayed back are never the ones revered by history. Obviously, you should take your safety into consideration, don’t take unnecessary risks, but do take every opportunity you have to educate yourself. 

Take every opportunity you have to acknowledge all sides of a situation. 

One more thing,  it won’t be easy. Not all people want the truth, they want their beliefs and if you go against that they will try and call you out and trip you up. As long as you are reporting the truth you have nothing to worry about. Although do remember, it’s a double-edged sword, if you want to be a true journalist you can’t worry about not only other’s beliefs but your own. The second you introduce your own thoughts into reporting the situation you introduce bias which instantly starts to wear away at your own credibility. 

If you’re watching any news organization right now, you most likely have seen or read something that was obviously tainted by bias. Now you have examples, another resource to show you what not to do, use them to better your own reporting.  

 If I could sum all of this up in one neat quote I would, but then I would be no better than the people I speak against. It’s not easy, as Horace Greely founder of the New-York Tribune says, “Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.” I will forever belong to the sentiment that the media should be the friend of the people, that’s why it’s protected in the First Amendment. 

Journalists have the power to change the world for good and bad. That’s why the way you take on journalism matters so much, careless and extrinsically motivated media only causes problems. So please, student journalists, professional journalists, truth-seekers, anyone with a mind of their own, if you’re reading this, this is your chance. This is your chance to do yourself, your friends, your community, the world a favor by making sure the only thing being spread is the facts.

The truth will set you free, so let it.