Over the last few days I’ve been forced, in a positive sense, to reevaluate what being a Journalist means to me. What exactly is it that I actually want to achieve from my writing, my career and my goals in the field of Journalism. My very first lecturer was a man named Tom Stokes and he told me on the first day in University that “you are a Journalist. Regardless if you never write a word, you need to think of yourself like a Journalist, act like a Journalist from now”
In today’s modern digital age, which has advanced so much further than even where it was in 2003 when I first started studying the field, Mr Stokes methods would probably be taught very old school – or decidedly perhaps a little out dated. But it was his words that stayed with me all these years later, and although ironically I never respected his message much when I studied under him, I think about those classes more and more the older I get and the more writing that I do. I believe that as a Journalist you have to be impartial, as impartial as someone might be in an internet age where everyone is labelled and cataloged online, where potential employers and co-workers can search for you on Facebook before you even start a job to get a sense of the person they’ll be working alongside. They used to say that first impressions meant everything, but now that’s not as true, since impressions can be made even before that. Well before that.
As a Journalist I believe that your writing and your voice defines you. I think you have to have an ability to speak about what you are passionate about and for it to resonate in your writing. If you are critical, you need to attack constructively, you need to formulate and plan your argument as a General might plan an Army’s march into battle. Too often I read lazy online blogs from people who know little to no facts about a situation, have no context about anything, before jumping in and ripping things apart. The indigestion you might feel after rushing a meal could be comparable to the backlash you receive after rushing a blog comment without the facts.
And people have a voice that they are willing to use. That is not something that they will hide behind. I don’t believe in the traditional mantra either, that a Journalist must be the authority on the subject because it was he or she who wrote an article in the paper, it is they who just happen to be lucky enough to write those words and (ideally) get paid to do so. Too many Journalists have readily hidden behind the name of a good paper or the reputation of a good editor. Too true as well that good Journalist’s put their own reputation on the line every time they write for a new project, whatever it might be, exercising caution that it will not be something which affects their future career.
I believe being a Journalist is about channeling a voice for reason, analytically looking to be that observer and reporter. I’ve noticed that more and more I tend to be the kind of person who will notice so much about the world around them, less about myself, but will definitely pick up on the cracks in the pavement and be looking for what can fill them in. I wouldn’t be so brazen to describe myself as a medic but I would say that there is ultimately a need for me to assemble the pieces in the right order before presenting the work. It’s not perfectionism either, or the need to be seen as infallible, it’s simply a chance for me to tell the story I want to tell and get that message across for the reader. As a Journalist I am ultimately a storyteller.
Being a Journalist means a lot to me. It hasn’t brought me fame, or money, or security. It’s yet to give me the tools that I need to have a stable lifestyle or to succeed in raising a family, getting married or moving out of this shitty house. But it’s real and it’s honest. And because I believe in what I do I attempt to adapt as much of my skill in other areas to my benefit. My storytelling and my applicability has probably been the reason why I’ve succeeded in the job interviews I’ve succeeded in and my drive and determination – the same drive and determination that makes me finish an article – are the reasons why I’ve been selected to work for certain assignments, written anything at all and managed to continuously find a way to be noticed.
The confidence of writing articles has meant that, as a writer, I’ve been able to express some of my best work through simple posts and stories. I’ve been able to help myself a lot more than I ever thought I would just by having the focus to finish an article. And I’ve been able to find such a great grasp on the issues in those articles by solving them for the benefit of my alleged readers. There’s nothing I’m more proud of then my writing.
I believe in myself about 30% of the time. But I believe that I’m a Journalist 100% of the time, regardless of whether it means I’m succeeding in life or not, and I’ve so much passion about it and I care so much about it that there is nothing I would rather do.