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Can Everyone Be a Journalist?

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Can everyone be a journalist nowadays?

The definition of 'journalist' varies from person to person and some forms of news involvement may be seen as journalism whilst others are not. When the word 'journalist' is mentioned, usually a very distinct picture comes to mind. It is usually a person working in a busy newsroom, with other likeminded individuals, trying to find newsworthy stories to present to the public. This, for a long time, has been the image presented to us, of what a journalist is.

However, now, in the 21st century, this image is changing. The invention of the Internet is especially responsible for these changes, as the opportunities it now presents, and the new technologies that have stemmed from the Internet, slowly erode the barrier between the journalist and their audiences. Modern advances in technology have significantly affected consumer behavior and lead to the "potential for all of us to participate in the news" (Hirst, M 2011 p109).

The question 'Can everyone be a journalist nowadays?' seems like such a simple question, but it is seemingly more complex than that. This essay will endeavor to explain how the changing face of journalists and the different types of journalism have altered who can be a journalist, or at least who can perform the tasks a journalist does. If considered under the traditional constraints of professional journalism, not everyone can be a journalist. Yet the notion of being a journalist and what journalism actually means is changing.

The notion of being a journalist and what journalism actually means is changing. This is largely due to the Internet and mobile devices, which allow instantaneous sharing of material across the globe by anyone with access to these technologies. With these technologies come the rise of 'citizen journalism', seen across online platforms such as blogs and social media, prompting a shift in who can be considered a journalist. But this level of greater interactivity that everyone can now have with the news and media does not necessarily mean that everyone can be a journalist. In short, in today's day and age, individuals have more access to technology and therefore the opportunity to be involved in different stages of journalism production, but does this necessarily mean that every individual can be a journalist?

"If it looks like journalism, acts like journalism, and produces the work of journalism, then its journalism and the people doing it are journalists. Whoever they are." (Woo, W in Hirst M 2011 p110). This may be true for some people, but it brings to question whether it is legitimate journalism (substantial evidence, attempts to be balanced etc.) along with what are the consequences and ultimately, given the potentially detrimental outcomes, whether people should be allowed to be called 'journalists' (in any form), just because they have the resources and outlets.

The traditional idea of what a journalist's purpose is narrows the scope of who can preform this role in society. A journalist's role in society is commonly seen to be bound by many ethical standards, outlaying that a journalist's role is to uphold democracy and inform society. A part of this role is for journalists to act as a 'fourth estate' or watchdog, meaning they have to act independently, report objectively and seek the truth for the greater good of an informed, democratic society (Ward 2010).

It is these values that set apart professional journalistic institutions from the audience and consumers. These values create credibility and a level of trust between the audience and the journalistic institutions they rely on to report the news. If you consider these conditions, not everyone can be a journalist.

A key element that these traditional values of journalism practice bring is credibility and the trust that this creates. Without public trust in a news organisation, that news organisation fails to fulfill its purpose, and without credibility within a news organisation, a public trust cannot be gained. This credibility is something that traditional journalism, that is journalism practice adhering to ethical codes around which journalism is defined, holds central to its functioning.

However, it can also be said that these traditional ideas of a journalist's role in society are idealistic and thus the concept of who can be a journalist is changing. It is difficult to say whether journalism has ever fulfilled its solely objective, watch dog role in society, which demonstrates whether this can be a defining quality that separates journalists from the audience. Fenton (2010, p. 3) explains this well when she says that journalism being for the public good is experienced as only an ethical horizon and not a reality. She explains that there are "many things that news journalism ought to be doing" and these objectives "form a line in the sand against which contemporary practice can be critiqued." Here Fenton is explaining how the (unachievable) ethical objectives of journalism can be used as idealistic benchmarks for contemporary journalism, but these objectives do not necessarily make up the foundation of journalism practice today. From this is can be seen that with the changing conception of journalism practice, there is also a changing conception of what makes a professional journalist.

The vast amount of new technologies that have been developed recently has drastically changed the gathering and reporting of news. These technologies, through bridging the divides that space and time create, have changed news from something that has happened, to something that is happening constantly (McNair 2006). Before these technologies, which have made the globe a much smaller place, the profession of journalism was seen as a much more one-directional act; news was transmitted from the journalist to the receiver (the audience, public). However, now with the Internet and satellite technology, this is being replaced by journalism with a more multidimensional flow (Heinrich 2011). It is this multidimensional flow that is redefining what constitutes being a journalist.

The internet and mobile devices have opened up a world of opportunities for a once very closed off profession. The capabilities that these technologies make possible, such as the sharing of photos and videos around in the globe in seconds, has changed the way the public interacts with journalistic institutions and how journalists interact with (and use) the public. With these technologies comes the ability to capture images of events as they are happening and upload these images and information to the web instantly.

Studies conducted by Pew Research



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