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EDITORIAL: Journalism more complex than it seems

If 9-year-olds can be reporters, can anyone do it?


Everyone thinks journalism is easy. The first thing that children are taught when they come to school are the basic skills of reading and writing. Since almost every educated individual knows how to do this, including some people who weren’t even formally educated, then it naturally follows that almost anyone who can recount a story, read and write can be a journalist.

Journalism majors and journalists aren’t in an esteemed position. When assessing various career paths and areas of study, implicit bias persists in which most people think that the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is superior to the social sciences and humanities. Those groups are further broken down into a hierarchy of what occupation or study has the most prestige. In this hierarchy, journalism is relegated to the bottom. There’s an image of a journalism and media studies major who coasts through life with a light workload (probably partying a lot, because of all that free time). Additionally, there’s the idea of the journalism major who graduated — unemployed or, best case scenario, employed but paid very little.

Consider recently famous, 9-year-old journalist Hilde Kate Lysiak. She started a monthly local newspaper, The Orange Street News, which has a circulation of 200. She’s a precocious girl who has a passion for writing and updating her community about current events. And in the case that her ambition is not yet apparent, you can plainly see it by how she expressed commitment to her profession by being undeterred about breaking news on a murder in her neighborhood. The headline: “Exclusive: Murder on Ninth Street!” So if a 9-year-old can report on a big murder story, then anyone can be a journalist.

Yes and no. The Targum, for example, is a student newspaper and accepts students from all types of backgrounds. You can be a mechanical engineer and randomly show up on our front door to write for Inside Beat or the news desk. You can be a women’s and gender studies major and help take photographs and videos. There are a number of positions available for all types of people. Moreover, a diversity of majors is encouraged, because that’ll just add credibility and expertise on an obscure topic that the newspaper might want to cover. In that sense, anyone can be a journalist, and we welcome anyone who might be interested.

But then again, not everyone makes the cut. Social skills, intuition and common are essential to being a journalist, and many people still lack those basic skills. Lysiak should be commended for efforts to spread awareness to her community by reporting the news and encouraged to nurture her precociousness, however, someone that young has yet to fully develop her mental faculties. Nominally, she’s a journalist, but whether she’s a good journalist or a proper journalist is contentious. Lysiak is incredibly young, and therefore has plenty of time to harness her skills and hone into the profession. Ethics pervade the work of journalism everyday, and not everyone knows how to properly handle delicate topics like murder.

On the surface, journalism looks easy. But contrary to that idea, there are underlying dynamics that have to be accounted for. As a journalist, one must be immensely aware of what to say and how to say it, what to leave out and what to describe in great detail and what stories to cover and what not to cover. And also while it’s true that most people can write, not everyone can write well.

You could probably scribble some nonsense and still call yourself a journalist, but it wouldn’t be good journalism. A number of under-paid and over-worked individuals persistently strive to present worthy content and journalists around the world risk their lives to explain the truth. Good journalism is hard, and when done right it has the power do incredible things like acquit innocent people or shed light on corruption.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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