Rabu, Oktober 27, 2004

My Few Thoughts on Journalism and Journalist

During October 2004, I have been participating in SIDA Training “Electronic Research and Publishing” in University of Stockholm . And one of the lecture, Mark Comerford from University of Stockholm rise a question about what is journalism and who is a journalist. He said the phrase “ that's not journalism” is heard more and more.

What's is journalism? This seems a simple question for everyone that choose journalist as their profession. But for me, the definition of journalism is complicated. It seems like pornography. The specific definition varies from person to person, but in general, you know it when you see it.

When I was in college, my lecture said that journalism is the practice of collecting and publishing information regarding current events. It is often defined even broader - as the pursuit of the truth.
He also said when journalism is associated with the news, it is often referred to as the "first draft of history." Even though news stories are often written in a straight alias hurried style, they should be proofread before being published.

The main activity of journalism is the reporting of events by stating the journalistic parameters of 5W+1H: who, what, when, where, why and how and commenting on the significance of the event. Journalism exists in a number of media: newspapers, television, radio and magazines, with internet journalism being a newcomer.

Generally, a distinction is drawn between straight reporting (just the facts), editorials, (the official opinions of the paper), and op-ed columns ("opposite the editorial page" comment from non-staff authors).

However, this distinction is often difficult to make. Journalists may intentionally or unintentionally fall prey to propaganda or disinformation. Without even committing outright fraud, journalists may give a biased account of facts by being selective in their reporting, for instance focusing on anecdote or giving partial explanation of actions. This is especially effective in a authoritarian state, foreign reporting and war time, since few people can and do check such reports. Newspapers and periodicals will often contain "features" - see under heading feature style at article news style - written by journalists, many of whom specialise in the form.

As I mention above, now we are facing a new form of public journalism is called internet journalism. I will emphasis on blogging, in which a writer, often unaffiliated with a professional news organization, writes frequent dispatches on niche topics, posted online. Though new to readers accustomed to less chronologically organized dispatches, the style harkens back to the early days of print journalism.

The growing popularity of the internet as a news source, along with the shrinking popularity of virtually all traditional news sources puts some establishment press assault the reader with lurid claims of internet irresponsibility. One of the most frequently attacked genres of internet material is the internet "News" sites on the Web and the Usenet Groups. They say that the delivery of news stories in internet "without the traditional filter of the press" intervening between the consumer and the stories themselves. The objections also come not from stories, but from personal comments posted to Usenet groups in a "neighborhood gossip" like fashion.

Now, that objections are not wholly true. Because, the establisment press ( newspaper, magazine, television and radio) also published their internet version. And we can dismissed usenet groups as not part of journalism. So what about blogging? There are thousand hundred blogger who made a story constantly in their weblogs. Can they called themselves as journalist?

According to Paul Andrews in "Is Blogging Journalism?" written for the Fall 2003 edition of Harvard University's Nieman Reports, he defines journalism as "the imparting of verifiable facts to a general audience through a mass medium."

From that definition I draw the line that one of the key component of any definition of journalism is verifiable fact. So, whether it be in a newspaper or in a blog, the verifiable fact is crucial to the practice of journalism. I will say, it is not a journalism if a blogger, columnist or reporter assert something that not verified. We can verify something we got in the field by evidence or a second source. In that way, perhaps journalism is similar to the scientific method with its reliance on reproducible results.

Now, let's look some example how this standard can be applied. When a magazine reporter repurposes a press release without checking facts or talking to additional sources, that is not journalism. When a blogger interviews an author about their new book, that is journalism. When an opinion columnist manipulates facts in order to create a false impression, that is not. When a blogger searches the existing record of fact and discovers that a public figure's claim is untrue, that is journalism. When a reporter repeats a politician's assertions without verifying whether they are true, that is not.

As journalist, I also frequently disappointed by press coverage of current events. It happens all around the world including my country Indonesia. Too often, journalists unskeptically accept whatever "facts" are given to them by authorities without verifying that they are true. Many reporters in Indonesia write stories that include too many anonymous sources. It does not matter if sources are credible. But there are so many incidents that the sources are not credible and just tell the rumors. ( We have Tempo Magazine case and Laksamana Sukardi case on that matter. And I will write about it in different article)

So, I think we need to establish higher standards from those who practice journalism, whether they write for a newspaper or on a blog. Bloggers, as experienced critical readers, are in a perfect position to advocate for more comprehensive, nuanced coverage of events.

Definition of Journalist

I agree with the definition that a journalist is a person who practices journalism; that is, a journalist creates reports as a profession for broadcast or publication in mass media such as newspapers, television, radio, magazines, documentary film, and the Internet. "Journalists" also included related occupations, such as editors and visual journalists.

Many people consider the term journalist interchangeable with reporter, but this is imprecise, as it ignores many other types of journalists, including columnists, leader writers, photographers, editorial designers, sub editors (British) or copy editors (American) and so on. Many journalists write for print periodicals, but some also write books or publish on the Internet. Broadcast journalists appear on radio or television. Some journalists do a bit of everything.

Regardless of medium, the term journalist now carries a connotation or expectation of professionalism in reporting, with consideration for truth and ethics. This expectation is not always met, as journalists may publicly or privately take sides, or take some cash give from their source.

This case often happen in Indonesia. A survey by the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) said that they got less than Rp 500,000 as a basic monthly salary. Today's basic salary for workers in Jakarta is set at around Rp 670,000.

According to a survey by a U.S.-based consultant in 2003, the salary of fresh university graduates in other professions ranges from Rp 2 million to Rp 3 million in Jakarta. That the absence of a standard salary for journalists here has given rise to "envelop journalists," who compromise their profession with a cash "gift" from their sources.

Surely, it is ironic, that many Indonesian journalists, who often risk their lives to tell the public about corruption or collusion in society are not adequately paid. Moreover, journalist also frequently seen as members of the fourth estate of democracy. They are the mouthpiece of the voiceless and powerless in exercising checks and balances on the government and other high state institutions and apparatus.

So, it is important for journalist to understand well what is the main function of this profession. This related to the training for journalist before they practice journalism.

1 komentar:

  1. A thoughtfull and thought provoking piece.
    Thank you!