Andrew Bowman, bowmanaj@muohio.edu

What is journalism and reporting? It’s a question needing answering in today’s global society of social networking and leaning news organizations.

Most people have their own set opinions on the question. A more urging question to ask is; why do Americans have an unfavorable opinion of new organizations now? A 2009 Pew Research study said Americans think the press gets the facts right less than a third of the time.

A lack of education, misrepresentation and confusion has led to these jaw dropping facts and animosity against the press.

Is journalism a strictly unbiased, objective fact-giving report? Or is it merely a story about something happening yesterday? Is Cosmopolitan magazine just as much journalism as The Washington Post? After all, both have quotes, tell a story and can directly affect you. Well, if The Post started talking about your sex life that would be a “helluva” story.

The public demands articles to be unbiased, but that will never happen. No two people, of the six billion people on this planet, have had all the same experiences. Not even identical twins have shared the exact same life on Earth. Journalists are no exception. Their past shapes their present and future, including what stories they cover and how.

More people would know that, if education on journalism weren’t deteriorating. While it isn’t practical in this economy for every high school to have a journalism class, the subject is poorly covered in most schools. English teachers who have never even read a journalism textbook are asked to teach the writing style. Always, throughout the lecture, teachers discourage students by muttering, “It’s a dying field.”

Higher-level journalism professors are behind as well. Tenured professors are more concerned with writing textbooks and trying to keep a job than helping instruct the new wave of journalism. The old ways of doing things are regurgitated onto the new few trying this ever-changing endeavor.

People aren’t even informed who journalists and reporters are anymore. There are different types who appear on news networks. There are reporters, anchors, experts and pundits.

Normally, viewers get pundits confused with journalists and reporters. According to the Merriam-Webster Website, a pundit is “a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner usually through mass media.”

A pundit, unlike a journalist, does not adhere to any journalistic code. Pundits are encouraged to be opinionated, biased, argumentative and polarizing figures. Constantly, they pour out faulty reasoning and false stats. How can you debate a point, based in wrongness from the start? Besides, even if a person tries to defend a side, pundits meet them with a shouting match swamped with derogatory terms. After all, in the States, the loudest obscenity wins.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, same as the pundits, are not journalists. The two have never admitted to being journalists and Stewart is quite adamant against being called one.

Social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter, also fail to qualify. Yes, social networking does obtain elements of journalistic and newsworthy qualities, such as timeliness. Still, it is raw information, which makes it closer to a source.

ESPN talking head JA Adande, said recently on the TV show, Around the Horn, “The qualifications to be a journalist are going down.”

He’s wrong. If anything, people expect more out of journalists lately. For everyone’s opinion on what a journalist is, is a new set of guidelines emerges.

Yes, there will always be a debate on what journalism is. Yet, there is one concrete piece which all journalists should be: a citizen. Journalists are nothing more than citizens who have an urge and proper training on presenting on what they consider newsworthy events.

What will the history books say about this period of journalism, absent of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite? Well, it certainly depends, since most elementary textbooks actually have to be certified by the Texas Board of Education first. Consider the implications of a conservative state leaning getting first crack at deciding what the next generation reads in class.

No matter who approves it, this period of journalistic history will be littered with words such as “watchdog” and “anonymous.” Those words are thrown around loosely, uncontrollably and unchecked in today’s era of reporting.

Hopefully, history will say it’s a transition period in journalism. Undoubtedly, it will mention the massive layoffs, changing formats, polarization of organizations and the revenue stream turning into a cesspool. Nonetheless, the definition of journalism will always be the same. Trained persons committed to informing the public of newsworthy events, including persons places, things and ideas through formal mediums.

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