When you’re reading today’s newspaper, what do you usually want to know? Of course, you’ll tell me: news. But what kind of news?
Next, what do you feel about today’s news? Do you trust it? Do you think it gives you the whole picture? What does it lack?
I recently acquired one of the more interesting books in journalism. It’s called “The Elements of Journalism.” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel wrote it. It comes with an interesting sub-title, “What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect.”
I breezed through the intro and found this book was a result of years of study and interviews with top journalists, academicians and other experts. It was short of a reflection on today’s journalism, and how information technology has changed it.
The book also looks at the very essence of what makes news. Questions like, “What journalism is for?” was dissected. According to first few pages, the answer to that question is this: “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.”
Going back to school to study journalism has made me realize there is much to learn despite years of practicing it. Of course, there are also a lot that I have to “unlearn.” Everyday, we do make a lot of decisions. We decide what makes news and what does not. Everyday, we get swamped with information. Picking the gems is a skill you’ll acquire through years of practice.
However, habits form eventually. We become complacent. We take news for granted. We forget the very people we write for. We look at our work as a work of art than a piece of information that everyone should understand. We get lost in the noise, we call these days, information overload.
Who decides news? Who makes news news? According to this book, these are basic elements of journalism. They are the principles that guide us in our work. They are the unwritten laws we believe strongly. Just as nature has its basic elements, journalism has the following:
- Journalism’s first obligation in to the truth.
- Its first loyalty is to citizens.
- Its essence is a discipline of verification.
- Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
- It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
- It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
- It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
- It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
- Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.