As the recent experience of Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais proves, there is often a high price associated with exposing truths and scandals. Facing libel charges after writing about the horrors of a country’s diamond trade, serious journalists must place themselves at considerable risk if they are to uphold the values of honesty and integrity while delivering newsworthy content to their readers. This harsh reality is often overlooked, thanks to the antics of a select few tabloid journalists and editors who deal in sensational narratives rather than those with genuine value for the reader. The importance of serious journalism should never be underestimated, however, and neither should the sacrifices that journalists make in the quest to report real news in real-time to their audience.
With a small minority of tabloid reporters responsible for an entire series of misconceptions, let’s look at the following facts about serious journalists and how they stack up against popular stereotypes:
1. They are Deadline Driven
The world of news moves quickly and in real-time, meaning that stories have to be written, edited and published to a prohibitive deadline. This poses an issue for journalists, especially those who are forced to deal with regular interruptions with colleagues as they work. This can trigger a less than welcoming response that is perceived as rudeness, when it is in fact little more than a coping mechanism that enables them to maintain focus and deal with significant pressure.
2. They are Versatile and Adaptable
Depending on their status and background, some journalists are required to cover numerous genres of news and stories over the course of their careers. Rather than highlighting inadequate levels of focus or a lack of clear orientation, this underlines a keen sense of versatility and willingness to accept unfamiliar work with minimal notice. So while established bloggers often receive more credit in the current marketplace, it is important to remember that they are able to create single-minded content that is dictated by their existing knowledge and expertise.
3. They are Calm in the Face of Criticism
While anyone who shares their work and opinions in a public forum are opening themselves up to criticism, people often fail to realize that journalists are human beings with emotive views and feelings of their own. Criticism is particularly hard to take when it is aimed at an honest and unbiased piece of journalism, especially when it is directed by Internet trolls who well-versed in the art of dissecting sound and well-reasoned arguments. When you consider the journalists have to face such criticism on a daily basis, they are constantly required to remain calm and professional in response.
4. They are Often Their Own Harshest Critics
The nature of journalism is interesting, as each author is given individual accreditation for their work and must take ownership of the content. This breeds both pride and a yearning for self-improvement, especially when they reread a published article and uncover sentences or paragraph that they would like to restructure. In this respect, journalists are often their own harshest critics, as they learn over time to remain strong when they doubt their ability and use mistakes as motivation to further hone their craft.
5. They Work in an Incredibly Competitive Industry
The issue of self-improvement is an interesting one, as the journalism industry is as competitive as it is fast-paced. This means that a strong work ethic and a relentless quest for self-improvement are crucial to your chances of longevity in the sector, regardless of whether you work for a traditional media firm or an online brand. Many outsiders categorize those who work within the industry as being cut-throat and ruthless, when in fact they are simply committed to succeeding and carving out a long and rewarding career.
6. They are Deceptively Humble
Although some have described journalism as “an inherently arrogant profession,” this is at odds with some of the core elements of the sector. Not only is there a strong hierarchy within any typical media or news agency that commands a degree of servitude, but the majority of writers have their work shaped, changed and embellished by meticulous editors. So without a sense of humility and respect for the chain of command, journalists would not be able to survive in the industry.
7. They Risk their Careers Everyday
While many serious journalists may be deceptively humble, they are also courageous despite carrying a burden of great responsibility. Those in the front line of their field (such as investigative journalists) are forced to place their careers at risk every single day, as they strive to deliver insightful and often difficult news to the public regardless of any influential figures who may be involved. This can cause tremendous unrest and may even trigger lawsuits, meaning that journalists must have the courage of their convictions and remain true to their values at all times.
8. They are Part of a Thriving Industry
The traditional news industry is undoubtedly moribund, but this is often misconstrued as the death of journalism. This is far from the truth, as the number of media outlets, online news carriers and reputable blog sites has risen at a considerable rate and created even more opportunities for skilled and experienced journalists. Many of the most established writers also have the opportunity to freelance in the modern age, as they look to maximize their earnings and report news across a rich diversity of media.
9. They are Highly Skilled and Qualified Writers
Conversely, the rising number of online media outlets has also created opportunities for those without a journalism degree or any associated experience. Alongside the emergence of independent blogging as a potentially lucrative career option, this has diluted the marketplace and created a perception that many writers are able to operate without a defined skill or academic qualifications. Journalists remain set apart from other writers, however, as they are all college educated, highly talented and exceptionally knowledgeable within their fields of expertise.
10. They Live in a Male Dominated World
From a female a perspective, the drive for equality and equal opportunities in the workplace has never been more strongly backed. These efforts have not yet been fully reflected in the world of journalism, with an estimated 79% of all newspaper articles penned by a male author. This means that female journalists face an even harder challenge to sustain their careers within the sector, despite the perception that they are able to operate from a fair and even playing field.
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