We've been told over and over since we first entered j-school that the job of a journalist is to give the public a fair, accurate and informed version of the world's events. With many less than reputable "journalists" increasingly clogging up the internet, it is hard to both earn and keep the attention and respect of our audience, which inevitably thrives on the media's mistakes and shortcomings. People often complain that the steadfast integrity of journalists such as Peter Jennings no longer exists; they say news outlets focus too much of their time on celebrity gossip and scandal.
But as discussed in class, ratings are everything.
A station's audience dictates what goes on air -- and unfortunately for those who whine about the state of the media, scandal is what people are drawn to (one needs only to take a look at Chris Hansen and his salacious predators to see how true this is).
How is a young journalist to earn the respect of a contradictory audience that demands "real" news yet is much more inclined to embrace the stories of TMZ and US Weekly? I admittedly love stories about Britney's new screwup just as much as the next person. But the ones who ruffle my feathers are those who flip embarrassingly through the newest issue of National Enquirer at the checkout line (while glancing around to see if anyone's witnessing this guilty pleasure), and then later moan about the quality of journalism.
But, as we all learned early on in our lives, respect is something that has to be earned. All we young people can do is focus on what's important and spread the belief that things such as politics and foreign affairs do matter. And all journalists can do is remember that their job first and foremost is to report on what matters.
Fairly and accurately.
Melody Chiu is a junior studying print journalism at the University of Southern California. She enjoys playing with her spotty dog named Nicky and staring at her Tom Welling shrine.
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