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September 20, 2005

The aim of a journalist

Through reading chapters 3-6 in The Elements of Journalism, I was able to understand the turmoil a journalist must face. As human-beings we all have our own biases. No matter what the issue, we each have our own opinions. When you are a journalist you must learn how to overcome these opinions, because your first job is to report news to the citizens. This news should be free of bias and personal opinion, and instead be a factual representation of news.

In chapter three it discusses a "covenant" that exists between a journalist and the public. It is the obligation of the journalist, who has the means to provide the information regular citizens can not, to provide unbiased news to the public. The book discusses Adolph Ochs, who bought the New York Times in 1896, and made it his policy to "give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect or interests involved." As a consumer of news I believe this is extremely important. I want the opportunity to make my own judgment about issues, rather than forming an opinion based on that of a journalist. Reporting unbiased news, I believe, would have to be a very difficult task.

In both articles I have wrote so far, I find it impossible to completely eliminate my own voice from the news. In my first article I had to do a profile. I realized when I was done that it sounded more like an advertisement for the person, than an actual news article. Also, in my article about Seton Hill it was hard to provide strictly facts since I am a biased fan of Seton Hill.

In chapter three, the book also discusses the "New Bedouins." This issue is about journalism becoming professionalized. The book reports on a study done in 1997, where it was found 2/3 of newspaper journalists "did not grow up in the community they were covering." At first this statistic disturbed me for two reasons. First, that means that jobs that could be potentially going to local people are being taken by people coming into this area strictly for work. Secondly, I thought a local person might be able to provide better coverage of local news. Why not have journalists who live in the area already? I realize the answer to this question, as a result of reading these chapters. A local person will have certain feelings about this area. These feelings could be negative or positive, but regardless they will influence the way a writer reports the news. A person new to the area will not have feelings regarding the area, and will in turn focus more on fact than opinion.

Finally, the issue of "Independence in Practice," in chapter 5, was interesting. In 1989, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times was reprimanded after attending a "Freedom of Choice" rally. She argued that she was not reporting, but just attending the event like any other citizen. The New York Times believed this would be upsetting to her readers. I am very torn on this issue. I obviously agree that she should not be covering an article about abortion, if she attended this rally. As far as other news, I personally do not see a problem, because everyone has opinions and a journalist is no different. At the same time I understand what the paper was claiming. Readers may dislike her opinion on the issue of abortion, and take that one issue further by discrediting her writings on other issues. They may feel if she has strong opinions on this topic, she may also be incorporating her opinion into other news reports.

There were many important journalism issues covered in these three chapters. I believe the major focus was that it is the responsibility of a journalist to provide unbiased information based on facts.

Posted by JennaOBrocto at September 20, 2005 12:29 PM


Jenna, just a quick tip -- try to break up your blog entries into more paragraphs with some line breaks. Readers will be much more likely to read through your entries if they don't look like huge essay-size chunks of writing.

The point you made about local journalists covering stories in communities they're familiar with caught my attention -- I hadn't thought of it that way before.

There are problems with that perspective, though. Local journalists covering familiar territory are much more likely to have helpful connections and sources, as well as a better idea of who to talk to in order to get certain types of information. I think it's also important for local journalists to understand the lifestyles and environments of their audience in order to know what news will interest them.

Posted by: ChrisU at September 21, 2005 10:47 AM

Thanks, for the paragraph suggestion. I agree my blogs need to be broken up. This last article would scare me away if it were someone elses.

Also, I think you brought up a great point. If a journalist is familiar with the area, then they will have a better chance of getting quotes from certain people. I work here in admissions, and many of the counselors know the football coach and players, so for my football article this was helpful.

Posted by: Jenna O'Brocto at September 21, 2005 1:21 PM

Jenna, you're absolutely right that, because we're human beings, we can't possibly remove all traces of bias from our thought. We can, however, watch out for ways that our biases influence our thinking processes, and thus be open to suggestions when others point out that bias.

It's great that you were able to convey your contacts in Admissions to help you do your sports story.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 21, 2005 1:46 PM

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