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Stephanie Allen Headshot

A Defence of Journalism

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It constantly bugs me that when I explain to people what my career aim is, I usually receive one of two responses.
1) Oh brilliant, that sounds interesting! (*cue comment about my writing skills/chance to travel...*)
2) Oh... really? (*cue sceptical face*)

So I would like to address response number two and put down, in writing¬ł all the reasons why their sceptic outlook to journalism is silly.

It's struck me, that most writers are also, or previously have been, journalists. Think about George Orwell for example. On the whole, unless somewhat controversial, writers tend not to get so much slack. Writers don't have quite so bad a reputation. Yet they, in essence, do exactly the same thing.

Journalists are seen to be manipulators of the truth, people who find the grittiest stories, to get the juiciest headlines to sell the most papers or gain the most website views. Obviously, the papers have to get sold. But news sells.

I'll admit, there are a few who might have bad intentions and will happily place a slightly untrue angle on a story to get people talking. They might portray someone else in a bad light and sway public opinion when it should not be swayed at all.

But on the other hand there are those journalists who risk their life to bring news to the public. They believe everybody who wants it has the right to learn more about the world in which they live, to know what goes on in politics, and international affairs and scientific progression. They live by the belief that knowledge is power, and everybody has a right to knowledge.

So that's the basics covered. Now for style.

Let's return to consider authors. These are people who create fictional worlds and events based on reality. It's better than real life and it's engaging. But they also put socially important issues within their work...they can weave into plots political injustice, poverty, abuse... and so on. How many books are memorable, shocking, or emotive? They use words to create an effect to get their work read.

Do journalists not do the same thing? They put a slant on stories, true, but these make them emotive, or powerful or horrifying. They also use words to create an effect to get their work read. Who wants to read a news article that isn't engaging or emotive? It wouldn't interest you enough to guarantee your persistence in reading.

Journalistic writing is an art form. It's a skill. It takes talent to be able to write about something that's true in a way that makes others want to read it. What's more, journalists have to have a passion for what they do. They start off on minimal wage, and do a ridiculous amount of work for the benefits they receive.

But if writers and journalists are so similar, why is the latter portrayed so negatively? I understand that not everything in the press can be believed, but there are also heavy generalisations at work here. The recent phone hacking scandal hasn't helped things, but it's about time people see journalists for the talented writers they are, simply attempting to make news available to everyone.

And it's not just journalists either. Lawyers and politicians receive a lot of bad press and are subject to the worst stereotypes. These are all people that hold some degree of power and influence; these are people that others could be jealous off. Yet these are also, sceptics believe, people who benefit from the lives of others. But again, this is a generalisation!

So next time someone speaks negatively about a profession just hesitate for a second and wonder, maybe they're not all bad...