Thursday, April 25, 2013

Journalists Worrying About Their Names in Lights Kill Good Reporting

Boikhutso Ntsoko

Has Journalism become about a writer's name/by-line or piece to cameras? And no longer about serving the original purpose of disseminating information.

I engaged in an article a few weeks ago about the decline, or "death" thereof rather, in traditional (newspapers, radio and television) journalism and the super incline, or hostile takeover, of the new super power, digital (online) journalism.

What interested me more in this article was how they mentioned that the death of traditional journalism was not imminent, but intended. The quote says, "Print journalism was not meant to subside. We as journalists killed the tradition by taking articles, putting them online for people to read, for free."

My question from this was why? And from this, I could really just derive one answer. This heavy transition is caused by more and more journalist worrying about their names, by-lines and reputations and forgetting the original purpose of journalism.

As a journalism scholar myself, I am in a very vulnerable position to witness what the future generation of information bearers are going to be like. Throughout my years of study, I've realized more and more future journalists who are lazy to go and search for information, not just for stories but assignments as well, research.

I've witnessed more and more future journalists who, deliberately fail to meet deadlines, who DON'T want to read, debate, engage, share thoughts and ideas, future journalists who are afraid of their own drive and abilities.

And I've witnessed the hunger in these future journalist's eyes to have their name under the headline of an article. So much that they're willing to harm the next person for that byline or Piece to Camera.

Now what scares me is that these journalists that I speak of have entered the market and are writing and presenting for professional media houses.

I was taught that one excels in what they practice. So if these people carry this hunger into established media houses, will the hunger die, just because they're in a professional environment?

Understand me, I am fully aware that at the end of the day media houses are businesses and businesses succeed based on trends and developments. But that's just it, media houses are businesses NOT journalism.

We cannot, honestly, have such a futile profession be dictated by egos and prides.   

A former lecturer of mine, Gideon Tebid would always say, "I cannot over-emphasise the need for you to acquire new knowledge quickly." It makes sense now. In a generation that doesn't understand the history, and fails to acknowledge the present, how can they ever predict the future of the critical slaughter that online journalism will bring?

Mr Tebid would always mention, I remember in a lesson about propaganda, that once journalism goes viral, the power and responsibility of disseminating information no longer lies with the journalist and his media house, but with EVERYONE who can access the internet.

With the development of even more smart phones, and the need for less effort to access information. In an era where the general public, who have no fundamental knowledge of the ethics of journalism, are able to tweet about an accident they see, or record a video of it and post it online, do we see journalism succeeding in that market?

Even better, do we want to put journalism through that kind of mediocre? Where everyone is their own journalist? Where every Tom, Dick and Harry can report what they deem as news?

I repeat, I am all for development, but the smarter man is aware that development comes with proper and prior planning. You cannot just jump into such a market, with numbers and reputation being your only motivation. You need projections and planning.

Which brings me back to the purpose of my article, the issue that journalism, or traditional journalism for that matter will die because more and more journalist are worried about their names, pride and egos to see what that is doing to the future of journalism.

Everyone is so concerned with themselves that NO ONE wants to contribute to the greater good!

1 comment:

  1. Great piece, journalism would be richer in proffesion with your kind of noble minded analysis.You will realise once you work in the main big media houses that you have to adopt a competitive edge, and your name will be associated with your work and that's when your vain self will develop. Its not a bad thing, we all competing for a better life above from what the state can provide. Journalism may be a kind of information dissemation and what its not is a social development career. Its a numbers career, number of audiences watching, numbers of people reading the blogs, online publications and that odd newspaper bought. You have to care about your name, and as a budding journo try to get it out there as much as you possibly can. The truth is journalism is not a profession the economy is build around, so as somebody who is known in the proffesion your chances of getting work opportunities are greater than an unknown person with similar or even greater abilities to deliver the work.
    From a former vain journalist who is reaping the rewards of investing in "name in lights".