- Journalism is part of the bedrock of our democratic society. “Journalism exposes corruption, draws attention to injustice, holds politicians and businesses accountable for their promises and duties. It informs citizens and consumers, helps organize public opinion, explains complex issues and clarifies essential disagreements. Journalism plays an irreplaceable role in both democratic politics and market economies.”1
- Journalism reminds us of our freedoms. A 2012 survey showed only 13 percent of respondents were able to name freedom of the press as one of five freedoms protected by the First Amendment. “While Americans remain generally supportive of First Amendment freedoms, it’s clear that as a nation we need to re-energize our efforts to provide education about those rights, starting with understanding what they are.”2
- Journalism emphasizes the importance of truth-tellers and explainers. “Journalists are not merely purveyors of facts.”3 They carry out vital work in the public interest.
- Journalism encourages media literacy in an age of information overload. Americans spend 11 hours a day consuming information and a lot of it is unhealthy. “Media companies have learned to produce cheap information just as food factories know how to produce cheap and plentiful junk food. Affirmation – telling people what they want to hear – and sensationalism sell better than factual information that might strengthen our democracy or help citizens make better choices.”4
- Journalism highlights the difference between news and entertainment. For-profit media organizations produce what sells and that’s often fluff, entertainment and reality television. It’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Jersey Shore.” But that is not journalism that matters. That is not so-called “hard news,” or “accountability journalism.” As British publisher Lord Northcliffe once said, “News is something someone somewhere doesn’t want printed. Everything else is advertising.”
- Journalism helps people harness the power of the Internet and social networks. Journalists engage and learn from their audience, an essential skill for anyone in communication professions.
- Journalism teaches useful skills, including storytelling, writing and multimedia production. Journalists in highest demand have in-depth subject knowledge and can explain complex information. They are trained in technology and digital innovation. They have the ability to engage communities on multiple platforms, ranging from print and online to mobile phones and tablets.
- Journalism teaches ethics at a time when the public increasingly distrusts the media.5 “Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Journalists should…give voice to the voiceless, distinguish between advocacy and news reporting… Journalists should minimize harm, show compassion, act independently, be accountable.”6
- Journalism highlights the importance of hard facts and analysis despite an overabundance of information. “Gathering, filtering and visualizing what is happening beyond what the eye can see has a growing value. Data journalists or data scientists … are already a sought-after group of employees, not only in the media. Companies and institutions around the world are looking for ‘sensemakers’ and professionals, who know how to dig through data and transform it into something tangible.”
- Journalism encourages people to be embrace change. “We’ve entered an era of continuous change. Did you change last year? You’re a year behind. Did you go digital in 2002? You’re a decade behind.…Smartphones are not a fad. Nor is social media or the World Wide Web. They are no more ‘gizmo’ than the printing press was. They are driving a global revolution in digital content. For the first time in human history, billions of people are walking around with digital media devices linked into a common network. The digital age is changing almost everything — who a journalist is, what a story is, which media work to provide news when and where people want it, and how we engage with communities. The only thing that isn’t changing is why. We still care about good journalism (and communications) because in the digital age they still are essential elements of peaceful, productive, self-improving societies.”7
– Tracey Eaton
1 “Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present,” November 2012, The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia School of Journalism.
2 “2012 State of the First Amendment national survey,” July 2012, First Amendment Center.
3 “Post Industrial Journalism,” November 2012, Tow Center.
4 “The Information Diet,” January 2012, Clay Johnson.
5 “U.S. Distrust in the Media Hits a New High,” September 2012, Gallup.
6 “Code of Ethics,” Society of Professional Journalists.
7 “Journalism schools aren’t changing quickly enough,” September 2012, Eric Newton, Knight Foundation.