#VOJ10: What’s the value of journalism? A debate

flickr: boris_licina

Concluding a discussion with Freelance Unbound

You have hit the nail on the head with your final sentence.

Journalism may inflate its influence and importance. It may use what it can do to excuse what it too often does do. But we must be wary of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Where journalism has really fallen down is in wallowing in its self-disgust, in shying away from the defence of standards for fear of being called elitist. It’s the ultimate in middle class guilt – ironic when the print was built on the values and benefits of a skilled working class. Perhaps that’s why so many journalists really had it in for the printers.

To say that people don’t care about stuff like the chipping away of civil liberties or any number of other issues is the ultimate in defeatism. It’s our job to engage with people and make issues relevant. No one “wanted” to hear about Thalidomide or Agent Orange, but good journalism brought the issues to public attention and made them care. There’s sadly more creativity in constructing an argument that telling people something they don’t want to hear is elitist than there is in bringing that information to the public.

One final thing. We’ve gone on to the ‘big’ issues, and they will rightly always be the focus of conversations like this. But the sort of journalism that media types look down their nose at is also important, and too often forgotten. Read Take a Break for a consistently good example of relevant, engaging and – let’s not forget – commercially successful journalism. It’s every bit as skilled as anything The Sunday Times Insight team produced.

Whether we inform or entertain, there is still a craft and there are still methods worth retaining to use with all the fantastic new media we now have.

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