Who is really a journalist?

The big question that everyone asks these days question themselves is: “Who is really a journalist?”  It is a debate of the most urgent kind and its definition is becoming clearer. Will the basic tests on journalists help to draw the lines?

Who is really a journalist?

Journalism doesn’t consist of a one and only definition, but it’s the activity of creating news and information and presenting them in a way that the receivers can understand. Defining a journalist has moved dramatically into the field of law. The United States of America draft law’s definition of what is a journalist shows a clear new trend, which moves from the tradition: saying a journalist is someone that is related to the old media organisations or is someone who collects the information just for gain or livelihood.

Journalism is an activity rather than a job, this has been improved on by the bill in U.S. The bill classifies a large variety of persons as journalists. For some people journalism is just an act of disseminating news to the public, and anyone could do it, so they will argue that bill still doesn’t throw that one away.

Clearly any definition could be made for journalism, but the definition that was established in law these days could easily go beyond the traditional media.

Thomas Kent argues that a set of basic ethical tests, applied to a person’s body of work, could build on the idea of journalism as a service and help supplement the definition of a journalist for a shield law purpose.

He included in the test:

  • Is the person’s product intended for the general public?
  • Is the reporting based on facts rather than fabrications?
  • Is the journalist’s information objective, honest?
  • Does the person reveal his or her identity and their contacts?
  • Does the person or his/her organisation guard against conflicts of interest that could affect the product?

Objective journalism does not require that all views be given equal weight, a reporter or columnist who harangues the consumer with only one side of an issue, ignoring what opponents say, is more polemicist than journalist.

We all know that objectivity in writing a news for the receiver is the most important thing in journalism, where objectivity means Honesty, the working method for it has to be objective not the journalist himself or herself. “The key is in the discipline of the craft not in the vain”.

In this case I agree with Kent on his “definition”, but as Lewis H.Lapham quoted: “People expect too much of journalism. Not only do they expect it to be entertaining, they expect it to be true” which is not the case in some information that a journalist could give.

The tests that Kent requires could be overly tough for writers that strongly expose documents that reveal wrongdoing. We can’t talk here about the right to express an opinion or to reveal information to the public or the media, it’s about that narrow that can “make” in a way journalist reveal their confidential informant.

A person who simply leaks information without analysing it might not be entitled to coverage by a shield law. A journalist must write in his or her audience’s interest, not for themselves, he or she must show the ultimate truth.

Josh Stearns of free press suggested that a history of covering news with “ethics and a real journalist’s sense of things” might give the person a claim to legal protection.

Kent said: Any formal definition of a journalist can be used for unscrupulous ends. It is so important to recognize, analyse and vary these test by the country or culture to take into account local traditional information.

Journalism has been called the fourth estate due to the power and influence that media play in a society. News has its value and relevance and a world that exists thanks to the media.

As we all agree that a journalist should have some skills to consider him or her an “awesome journalist” the first one is Truthfulness: we know that journalism does not argue it’s an absolutely perfect art, but it still can give wrong information, in other words showing one side of the story. The second skill is, for sure, is objectivity as we talk about it at first. The third one is accuracy which means to verify any information that you get from anyone, to research it. There are still other skills, but these are the three main ones.

I have to admit that Kent found the right definition of journalism or journalist, and the tests he gave should be done for each one working in the world of journalism.

Post Author: Hiba Haraq

My name is Hiba, I am the joint editor of the MIUC magazine, that is an online magazine by and for students, focusing on life in Marbella, night or daily routine - in particular for the new students who will come to the university. Still a student at Marbella International University Centre, hoping to graduate with a Media & Journalism degree, and passionate about photography, landscapes and people.

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