This time two years ago I was working towards completing my MA in International Journalism. And I was loving every minute of it and I thought I was going to become a journalist immediately after graduation. Obviously life doesn’t always give you what you want straight away and much of time is a waiting game, but I am still waiting and still trying to get into the profession because I believe in it most sincerely.
In his book, The Universal Journalist, David Randall sets out a list of what he believes the job of a journalist is all about.
- Discover and publish information that replaces rumour and speculation.
- Resist or evade government control.
- Inform and so empower voters.
- Subvert those whose authority relies on a lack of public information.
- Scrutinise the action and inaction of governments, elected representatives and public services.
- Comfort the afflicted ad afflict the comfortable, providing a voice for those who cannot normally be heard in public.
- Hold up a mirror to society, reflecting its virtues and vices and also debunking its cherished myths.
- Ensure that justice is done, is seen to be done and investigations carried out where this is not so.
- Promote the free exchange of ideas, especially by providing a platform for those with philosophies alternative to the prevailing ones.
For me, when I read this list, I find myself tingling with pure excitement. Even in my physical exhaustion I am currently experiencing, I am filled with excitement just by knowing what that list stands for.
Journalism stands for truth and journalists stand for democracy. Because every true journalist knows that there is nothing more important in a democracy than a well informed electorate. But even or maybe especially journalists can be corrupted just as easily as anyone else.
Maybe not by money, but by putting their own opinions ahead of the truth. We see it every day. Newspapers reporting half-truths and often downright lies without any remorse or apology. In fact we’ve come to accept that many of our national newspapers or tabloids regularly just make stories up to sell papers. These people are not journalists. They are cheap hacks for hire. They do not deserve to refer to themselves as journalists. And they are the reason why the public in any western, liberal democracies do not believe or trust journalists and the media.
That is a tragedy because it is in those liberal democracies that we need journalists who will keep our democracy strong by revealing the truths that others want hidden and by keeping the electorate informed so that they can make the right choice for them at their elections.