Er not quite.
Having just graduated, and working part time in a restaurant/pub to fund my NCTJ, I often get chatting to the regulars that come into the pub. After the whole ‘how long have you worked here/what do you do’ general chat, I normally get asked what I want to do with my life now that I’ve graduated.
This Friday, the conversation went as follows…
“So, what you gunna do with an English degree then?”
“I want to do journalism, I’m doing a course in September.”
“Journalism?” (Cocky smile) “Right, newspapers or magazines?”
“So, you want to make stuff up about people?”
“Well that’s all journalism is isn’t it, making stuff up about people.”
“Yeah, but someone’s gotta do it haven’t they!” Laughs… walks off…
I wasn’t exactly impressed – is that really what people really think about journalism?
Although, after thinking about it, I can kinda see where he is coming from in some sort of way – as much as I hate to admit it. The things that are made up about celebrities in magazines are sometimes ridiculous, complete crap and are just written for the sake of having a story for people to read. The DM – although I embarrasingly read it most days – bases whole articles and stories on one picture. Some of them are so far fetched that I don’t even bother reading the article once I’ve seen the title. I think, due to the demands of the media and expectations people have about those ‘scandalous celeb stories’; magazines are almost pressured into writing these dramatic stories in order to boost their own audience and sales.
But although this may be a part of journalism, it is not ‘just what journalists do’; it’s not what they set out to do and isn’t the basis of the job.
“A person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television.”
“The investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience.”
“A journalist collects and disseminates information about current events, people, trends, and issues. His or her work is acknowledged as journalism.”
I think the two most important parts of journalism are Investigation and Writing. Both are needed to produce copy and neither can be done without the other. It’s these two things that I find most fascinating about that job. I don’t want to work in magazines because I love celebs, or want free beauty samples (although that’s a bonus). I find the idea of researching something that no one is aware of, interviewing and producing an article for an audience, really satisfying. I think journalists who love their jobs will feel the same, they are producing material to the demanding media and public, dishing out gossip that they found themselves, presenting it in a way that represents their brand and ultimately feeding out information that people can learn from.
The process of journalism is what excites me; I realized this when I was working at a local magazine for work experience. I was asked to write a 1000 word article on a trout farm in Sussex. I don’t really like fish. And I’ve never been to a trout farm. But I found the whole job so exciting – I prepared my interview questions and focus of the article, rung up the farm and did an interview, sorted out my answers, wrote the article, found pictures and finished up with a published double-page spread in the magazine. It was a great feeling, and the article ended up being quite interesting.
So, do I want to make stuff up about people? No, but that might be part of the job sometimes.
Is journalism about making stuff up about people? No, it’s so much more than that and I hope the guy in the pub is one of few who actually believes that is what a journalist’s job is to do.