Digital production and networked communication allow anyone to create content and disseminate it widely. In this environment, we should consider journalism as an approach to content creation. Those who employ the journalistic approach strive to produce content that helps users understand and navigate their communities. This approach is characterized by rigorous research and verification, the fair presentation of competing ideas, and a commitment to independent inquiry that follows the facts, challenges the facile, and engages with complexity and ambiguity. The journalistic approach is not limited to those who identify as journalists. It is the act of informing and enlightening that defines content as journalism, not the actor who created it.
Sid Bedingfield is visiting professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
John R. MacArthur
I hesitate to say that journalism is for fun, since hardly anyone doing it is having fun anymore. Nevertheless, I find few things in life more enjoyable than rocking the boat to the water line—when one of my stories or columns provokes outrage in powerful people. Unpaid blogging has taken a lot of the fun out of our trade, so I will add the caveat that journalism should also be remunerative. Only then will there be enough serious journalists—not just journalists who take themselves too seriously—to properly inform a public starved for authentic revelation.
John R. MacArthur is president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine.
A journalist in India once told me that, ‘Here in my country, we can name, but we cannot shame.’ If that were really true, why did he bother going to work in the morning? It sounded like the definition of journalism not achieving its purpose. People who hold power will be tempted to abuse it, and generally what prevents them from doing so is the fear of exposure and disgrace. Embedded in the purpose of journalism is its craft: strong stories, well-told, that make people pay attention. Otherwise, it’s just another tree falling at the printing plant.
Carroll Bogert is deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch.