Friday, September 17, 2004

Private life of journalists

Allyson's post about journalists giving to political campaigns raises important questions for student journalists. Will you be expected to be apolitical in your private life? How public can working journalists be in their support of political candidates or public issues?
News rooms vary in their approach to these questions. Some forbid working journalists from volunteering for political campaigns, posting political signs on their lawns, or plastering political bumber stickers on the vehicles. Others leave it to the individual's judgment and only consider the fairness and balance of his/her published work. Most would not allow a journalist to cover a group to which he or she belongs.
Student journalists might consider this. Regardless of whether you feel you can be unbiased in reporting on public affairs even though you actively and openly support political positions, would your public activities suggest to news makers that you favor one side over others. Would your public activities suggest that in your professional life you support or oppose their positions, that you are a potential ally or opponent rather than a neutral party?
If you work for the partisan press, then there is no problem, unless, of course, your politics don't match those of your employer. If you work for the mainstream press, however, perceived biases would hobble you as you interact with sources, compromise your newsgathering and render you less effective in delivering a full and accurate report to the public.


Blogger Jenni said...

just a question. does being a journalist automatically entail that you like politics. i really don't like politics at all, and sometimes being a journalism major makes me think that i'm out of the loop as far as politics goes because i really don't keep up with it in depth because i'm not really interested. just a thought.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may be in the wrong field. Most of what journalists report on is in fact, politics. Besides the sportscasters and entertainment reporters, who I wouldn't really consider to be journalists, it's mainly news reporters who focus most of their attention to politics. I'm not saying they give their attention to politics because they're interested in the subject, but rather because politics, in most cases, are the news that most people care about.

12:01 AM  
Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Jenni: I think you are defining politics too narrowly. It's not just that stuff that happens in even-numbered years and ends with victory or disappointment on a November day. Politics is the essence of human interaction; it is the process of accumulating and balancing power to accomplish things (of course, it can be abused). It exists not only at the city council, but in the workplace, in education, in business, in sports and in the family (especially if you have siblings). So journalists must be acutely aware of and always cognizant of little-p politics. That you are not interested in the "Big P" politics we are going through now is not fatal. But it is a bit of a drawback only because journalism often deals with where institutions affect the public. By its very nature, that usually involves government (even in business or the arts, the government is very involved) ... and that means some kind of politics. Politics helps determine the taxes you pay on your car or house, when you can have a beer, even where and when you can shop. So to say you are not intersted in politics is probably a bit of a misstatment. You just don't realize it.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

in response to the anonymous poster...i've wanted to be a journalist ever since i learned how to write. it's something i've always been passionate about (in conjunction with music, hence the reason i want to be a music journalist). i know i'm in the right field. sportscasters and entertainment journalists ARE journalists. the entertainment industry is a big part of american culture, whether you realize it or not. it has had a great influence on the way we see and think about things today. it's just as important as the news part of journalism in my opinion. and just because it's more laid back and not as urgent as the news doesn't mean it's any less important (or it's writers are less talented or less worthy).

and in response to the political thing...i'm not saying i'm not political or that i don't have opinions or care about important issues. i do. but i don't sit at the dinner table and talk about elections, politicians, the polls, etc. (yes, 'big p' politics). this is probably because talking about major political issues outright usually causes more controversy than actual meaningful discussion. i'd rather express my political views with my artsy side rather than my actual voice. so when the elections roll around every 4 years and the tv is plagued with campaign ads and speeches i'll let my less annoyed and more enthusiastic about news journalist counterparts do the reporting for those things.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name is Graeme Moore by the way, and there is no reason to get on the "uppity-up." I wasn't criticizing you at all, as the line about your profession was a simple catch phrase. And I'm not going to argue over the question of whether entertainment reporting is truly a branch of journalism. We all know that the entertainment business is nothing more than to satisfy our own fantasies. Indeed, it is an important part of American pop culture, but it is not what most deem to be very journalistic. Looking pretty and telling who wore what at the red carpet does not constitute a definition of journalism.
Best wishes.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Doug Fisher said...

I find myself in the odd position of admiring robust debate -- and then having to step in and say let's just slow down a bit. Obviously, some feathers are being ruffled. That's not intended, I think, by anyone. So while passion is good, let's keep it directed at the topic and try not to let it leak out toward one another.

12:02 PM  

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