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This realization has allowed me to differentiate between the importance I have attached to exercising the craft and the mission of the craft itself. Although journalism is driven by the responsibility to act as watchdogs of society – to document what the public cannot see and provide a transparent delivery of the truth – several values are often overlooked or are not directly attributed to that mission. For example, the takeaway from such direct exposure to the occurrences of a local or global society can be the freedom to become not an expert on one thing, but a mini-expert in many things.
Moreover, journalism can be regarded as a reflection of the values, culture, trends, and occurrences of society that collectively create a history of the present. However, while rightfully promoting a dispassionate, accurate, concise, precise and clear delivery of facts and information, the freedom to benefit from other values is hindered. In other words, its execution could jeopardize the realization of those values.
It is important to mention that the overarching principle in journalism is to maintain objectivity since our democratic society prioritizes the right to know and the freedom of speech. Therefore in order to preserve the circulation of information, journalists are rightfully tasked with presenting it in a way that does not invite subjectivity or opinion.
However all of these conflicts of interest can be attributed to a larger-scale conflict of balancing human desires and temptations that are made vulnerable to the importance of the profession. Journalists must master the careful and conscious detachment from commitments, desires, yearnings, influences, etc. from the objective purpose of the craft.
This only reinforces the unmistakable commitment to the profession. Although the films presented in classes have offered various depictions of the industry and the complications that come with it, they are bound by the portrayal of journalists who “just didn’t do it right,” or did.
Each example gives insight to the conflicts between the journalist’s influences and the demands of the profession.
Russell Crowe’s character in “State of Play” was conflicted with the personal relationships that blurred the ethical standards he was supposed to uphold.
So was Sally Field’s in “Absence of Malice.” So was Citizen Kane. So was Holly Hunter’s character in “Broadcast News.”
“Under Fire” provided situations where journalists grew attached to the subjects and conflicts they were supposed to cover that quickly “slippery-sloped” into blatant disregards for their responsibilities to deliver the truth.
“The Paper” presented a situation where the editor prioritized the financial health of her publication and the climb up the ladder of success over the integrity of differentiating between fact and truth, even if it meant wrongfully convicting two teenagers.
These characters, although fictional, symbolize real-life figures of journalism. And they allow us to see through the lens of both human beings and journalists. The dual identity is what I see as tragic. Journalism is real- they cover real events about real people that make a real impact. But they also juggle real problems of their own.
In my case, reporting and news writing does not grant me the freedom to draw connections between event and context, analyze the underlying meanings of occurrences, or assess the societal influences that provoked them. What I value is not always a part of journalism’s mission.
But more importantly, this all enforces the urgency for capable and motivated journalists that genuinely understand the importance of their responsibility and the commitment it demands.
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