Musings on The Elements of Journalism
While reading The Elements of Journalism written by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, I stumbled across many pressures journalists face, important and useful tidbits, and finally, some realizations and new ways of thinking. Though dry at times, the book was chock-full of useful information.
“They wanted people who could run swiftly over the next hill, accurately gather information, and engagingly retell it.” Written on page one of The Elements of Journalism and describing what people in primitive cultures look for in a messenger, this quote struck me. It is what we journalists strive to do in some respects: deliver the news quickly, accurately, and interestingly. It is intriguing to think that not only has journalism existed for centuries, but journalists as well. People need news, and we are fulfilling that need. I also realized another crucial responsibility of journalists. We are given this platform in which citizens are watching and listening, so we should use it to highlight different issues in the world. Important issues that people may not know about but should. The entire world is at our feet and we have an obligation to search out every corner of it for injustice.
Along with responsibilities of journalists, I also learned more about some pressures we face. First and foremost is the pressure to be first and be right, which has become ever-present in the recent age of social media. The pressure to be first is now easier in that, at the touch of a button, information can be spread to the entire world in a second. But this is where the pressure to be right comes in. Although it’s simple to be the first one, it is much more difficult to be the correct one. On numerous occasions journalists have lost credibility due to tweeting an untrue statement that they did not fact-check. Though these journalists may have been first, they weren’t right, and good journalists are both. There is also a pressure to give a voice to the voiceless, which goes in tandem with the idea that journalists are obligated to search out every corner of the earth. With seven billion humans living on this planet, there are seven billion stories to be told. It is our responsibility to tell them. Another immense pressure journalists face is to show both sides of a story, but The Elements of Journalism introduced me to a new way of thinking about this. On page forty-six, it was stated that “balance, if it amounts to false balance, becomes distortion,” and that could not be truer. Though it has been said that there are two sides to every story, there actually may be more than two sides. If only two sides are shown, the story then becomes slanted.
The Elements of Journalism discussed ten essential elements, but one of my favorites was the obligation of the journalist to the citizen. The loyalty of the journalist should not lie with their boss, their boss’s boss, or the owner of the newspaper or television station, but the citizen. The one who is directly affected by the news and the one who is watching or reading. An interesting branch of this topic is “solution-oriented journalism,” in which the journalist not only presents an issue in the world, but talks about how to fix it. It sounds wrong to think that we shouldn’t be working for our boss, but the age-old saying “the customer is always first” applies here. This is something I believe all of us journalists can strive for, because after all, “the press [is] to serve the governed, not the governors.” With this sentiment, another important element of journalism is transparency. In serving the citizen, journalists should be as open as possible about sources and methods to create a trusting bond between customer and consumer.
After reading The Elements of Journalism and attending the High School Journalism Workshop at Ohio University, I have gained a great amount of insight into what it means to be a responsible journalist of value. I have known since I was twelve that I want to be a broadcast journalist, but in this ever-changing world, I worry often that it may not be a good profession to enter into. But the workshop eased my fears, as the idea that the world of journalism is not dying, just changing was one of the biggest aspects discussed. Being with over one hundred other students my age who are just as passionate about journalism as I am was so refreshing and one of the greatest experiences of my time in high school. I hope all the other young journalists learned as much as I did because heading into my senior year, I now can take with me valuable new information to make my school’s publication even better. It’s good that programs like the High School Journalism Workshop exist so we, the future of journalism, can further our passion, meet others like us, and learn new and better ways to feed the basic human hunger for news.
Abby Grisez has been on the TV 11 news team at Hoover High School in North Canton for two years. This past school year Abby became the host and producer of a brand new show on TV 11, called Up to Date, which steps out of the school and community to focus on breaking down national headlines. Abby has attended the Washington Journalism and Media Conference in Washington D.C., and the High School Journalism Workshop at Ohio University. Moving into her senior year, Abby will continue her work on Up to Date, as well as taking on the role of executive producer of HVTV News at TV 11. She most recently hosted the Student Production Awards for the Ohio Valley National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.