Journalism’s most important asset is integrity, not sensationalism

Published by adviser, Author: Joseph Szalinski - Rocket Contributor, Date: October 27, 2016
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Journalism is a difficult field to break into. Between declining readership and “competition” among those with degrees in the field when vying for jobs after graduation, one must set him or herself apart from the rest of the pack. This leads many to title pieces with sensationalized headlines, and promote “clickbait” links online. This is quite a dichotomy, as this feeds into the issue of declining readership, as people suspect journalists are trying to “BS” them, or push some sort of corporate/political agenda, unfortunately at the public’s expense.

I’ve been guilty of attempting to incite discussion with provocative titles and odd subject matter. One recent example is an article of mine wherein I described the NFL as a cult. That was purposefully titled to get a rise out of potential readers. But I recognize that even though I don’t fancy myself a journalist, opting to consider myself an English major with an opinion, any journalistic work should be held to some uniform scrutiny.

This should hold true for absolutely everything! No matter what is being covered, in whatever sort of journalistic medium, it should be objective as possible and ultimately aim to uncover some sort of truth or spread some legitimate information.

Reporters and journalists shouldn’t feel compelled to accentuate details of a story to make it more enticing. The mundane shouldn’t be sacrificed in favor of “the fantastical.” This is a horrible philosophy that leads to many adopting an attitude that regular life pales in comparison to the exaggerated. Spectacles are fine for entertainment, but when they’re expected in place of existence, that’s when the problems arise. Look at the film Nightcrawler, in the movie, an aspiring news cameraman goes to disgusting lengths to document awful scenes of mayhem simply because it attracts viewers and gets good ratings. Obviously, this is a bit of a loaded comparison, but we, as a society, cannot get there without first having subscribed to this ill-conceived ideology of permanent spectacle.

News is just like democracy; for the people, by the people. Or at least it should be. News is written in the vernacular, in a way that’s easily digestible and direct. This is the best way to reveal truths on a surface level. No, I’m not saying journalists should be scholars and educators, but while piquing curiosity, they must keep in mind that absolute truth must be a constant. And I’m also not saying that a journalist’s writing should suffer, but good writing can still exist hand-in-hand with a responsible piece. Style and substance should not be confused.

Reporting is halfway between being a detective and being a scientist. And in both of those respective fields, truth is exceptionally paramount. There is a responsibility when one has a respected profession on which many people are dependent. It is a great injustice to the civilized society to allow for material that misinforms and misleads those who encounter it.

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