And yet this is not about pandering to keypad-wielding mobs. To be a journalist today, one must understand how much things haven’t changed. The rules—fairness, balance, scrupulousness, responsibility—ought to remain immutable.
Tolu Ogunlesi is a Nigerian journalist, poet, and author.
Stephen B. Shepard
More than ever, quality journalism is what matters—on whatever platform, using whatever technology, done by anyone who has the ability.
I mean a journalism vital in this era of information overload and media fragmentation. Original stories you wouldn’t think of asking for on Google. Relevant stories that engage communities. Important stories with in-depth reporting, deep understanding—and on our best days something approaching wisdom.
Perhaps our children will get this wisdom delivered on a wireless information appliance implanted in their brains. So be it. But even as the medium changes, the human need for thoughtful journalism in a free society will never go away.
Stephen B. Shepard is a former editor in chief of Businessweek, and the founding dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
I am a firm believer that every person can be a journalist. Who has never once told an accurate story? But obviously, not everyone is a journalist. The value of journalism is equal to the cost of achieving that accuracy in the sea of information. Not everyone has the time, resources, and willingness to find original sources or run fact-checks. Journalism is therefore the quality control for information. What happens on social media can only be called journalism when those practices and values become standard on Twitter and Facebook.
Wenxin Fan is a reporter with Bloomberg News in Shanghai.
Want to circumvent, at long bloody last, the tedious, multidecade debate over who is and isn’t a journalist? Repeat after me: Journalism is an activity, not a profession. It may be a calling for many of us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a legitimate side-hobby for many millions more, including (shudder) those who don’t share our basic set of sourcing traditions or political assumptions. Journalism is writing headlines and ledes, sharing photographs and jokes, discussing politics, advancing conversations, providing eyewitness testimony and independent verification. We’re lucky to live in a time when so many are doing what we love.
Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason.
The job of a journalist is to present accurate information to the public about events that are believed to be in said public’s interest. The word journalism carries a certain weight that I equate with integrity. This weight includes the work that has been done to research the facts in such a way that, when reviewed by the public, can be counted on to be the truth, or the beginning of a road that should lead us to truth. This is a high bar, as “truth” can have its own versions, depending on the subjective nature and context each individual brings to information.
This is why a great deal of the public has been drawn to “pundit journalism,” which echoes in a loop between pundit-journalists and their audience. This feedback loop serves all parties on its surface by reinforcing entrenched ideas for a specific audience and its specific “news provider.”
But is there an audience that wishes to have its worldview challenged consistently, and a support structure for journalists to deliver the kinds of provocative, fact-based stories that do that?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then we must first accept that there is more than one version of the truth. A soundbite we often hear is, “You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.” At face value, this seems obvious. But though many of us would like to believe that the definition of facts and truth are absolute, they are not.
If we accept this as fact, it is likely to lead to the most effective journalism: deeply researched stories that come as close to the truth of an event as possible, delivered through a point of view. This is similar to the greatest works of literature or film, which have moved society to think of the world differently by finding creative ways to tell stories that certain audiences thought of as absolute in their facts or feelings, but came away from those stories feeling very differently about the same facts and feelings. The best we can hope to accomplish is to provoke an audience to thought, within their own world and at their own speed.
Chris Miller is a filmmaker. He was the executive producer of Undefeated, which won the Academy Award in 2012 for Best Documentary.