Journalism: As I Understand It

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The primary responsibility of journalism is to present facts with social significance as it is. There is hardly any reason for journalists to express their personal opinion on issues or facts. Forming a judgment or an opinion or idea based on a journalistic report is the readers’ prerogative. On the other hand, journalists are the narrators of facts or reality, not campaigners for upholding or promoting an idea or opinion. Apart from describing or narrating what stands in the open, journalists need also to dig deep so as to look into the roots; inviting the readers to have a look at it with them: Journalism becomes meaningful when it tells us the stories that are hidden behind what we all can see.

Journalists should and must not give undue importance to sensational news that do not have much significance in the lives of the readers and the audience alike; this sort of practice primarily comes from the desire to attract attention of the latter, which, more often than not, overshadows the primary journalistic responsibility of presenting socially significant facts that concern the readers and the audience in one way or the other.

It’s only, and only, the readers and the viewers who are the ‘jury and the judges’; journalists should and must let them pass their judgment on various issues, – it’s their responsibility, while a journalist’s responsibility is to provide the readers with enough information for them to form correct judgment on various issues and themes. Sometimes journalists strive to influence public opinion in favor of a particular side of an issue; this is potentially a fatal practice, especially if the side the media takes is the wrong one, and the public opinion has actually tilted in favor of that particular side in consequence of such role on the part of the media.

Setting heinous crimes such as rape and murder themselves as socially significant issues without giving undue (and almost indecent and inappropriate) importance to social identity of individuals against whom these crimes have been committed is one of the fundamental prerogative of the journalist. So much so that when a girl is raped and murdered; the news should be expected to be on the front page, better still if it comes out as the ‘lead news’ of the day regardless whether the victim is a poor girl from a street corner or an actress, a celebrity, or a girl from a rich or upper-middle class family. This approach makes room for treating news involving the same crime on equal footing regardless the social identity of the victims in each case, and goes a long way in forming public opinion against heinous crimes.

It might be the case that in a society crime news, such as news of rape and murder, have not been given due treatment and importance for a fairly long period of time, as if they are not very serious issues. This would ultimately result in the general tendency of taking heinous crimes like rape and murder lightly in that society. A very small and ‘carelessly written’ news of a murder or rape of a girl from among the common folks on the back-page or at the remote corner of an inside-page of a newspaper makes murder or rape look like nothing much or even less than that. Proper understanding of which type of news is socially more important than the other (types) and the capability for grading news items according to their social significance or possible and probable social impact is the hallmark of true journalism. The social significance of a news item that does not profit us in the least (although, it might make us amused or sad in an indifferent way) is far less than that of a news item that makes us feel very worried about our personal safety. This is so, because this type of news also makes us mindful of our personal safety and security.

Sugar-coating the bitter-truth and hard-realities results in the distortion of the facts. Most of us fear the truth, because we deem it as ‘too terrifying’ and ‘too unbearable’ to know or utter, – something that is better hidden than revealed. However, the fundamental responsibility of a journalist is to reveal the facts in all their aspects and truthfulness; exposing, in the process, the ‘hard and harsh’ reality.

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Source by Mohammed Iftekharuddin

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