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PAM FRAMPTON: In defence of journalism

Journalism fulfils a necessary and important function in our world, Pam Frampton argues. —
Journalism fulfils a necessary and important function in our world, columnist Pam Frampton argues. — 123RF Stock Photo

“The most profound lessons about journalism I've learned have been taught to me by the people I've covered.” — Jodi Kantor, Pulitzer Prize winner, The New York Times

A journalism student from College of the North Atlantic interviewed me the other day, and asked whether the media was a career I would recommend.

I might have hesitated, given that journalism seems to be constantly under fire these days; sometimes rightly so.

After all, if journalism bills itself as a defender of truth and a bastion of democracy, it should expect the same level of scrutiny applied to it as it wields in its own daily work.

It’s why the media has become an easy target for politicians like Donald Trump or, closer to home, MP Seamus O’Regan, who has said that the media has no appetite for tackling difficult subjects if they aren’t “sexy” or “there’s no ribbon-cutting.”

Some of the criticism the media comes in for is deserved — though not the particular criticism lobbed by O’Regan, who gets his share of ink and airtime, thanks in no small part to the skills he honed during his own media career.

Some of the criticism is not deserved.

As for Trump, bless him, he has done more than his share to demonstrate why a free press is crucial.

With news, you have to learn who you can trust and choose your sources accordingly.

In this digital age, it has never been easier to mislead audiences by creating pseudo-journalism. Craft something that sounds official or looks like it comes from a legitimate news source, hit “send” and you can share that message with the world, true or not.

We need more storytellers who can collect and distil and demystify the complexities, subtleties and frailties of the human condition and encourage people to share their experiences.

And while the internet certainly makes it easier to spread false information, it has also facilitated shortcut journalism in some quarters. Gleaning information from a Facebook page is easier than tracking someone down in person; downloading a submitted photo takes less time than setting one up and assessing the scene with your own eyes — and these easier routes are sometimes taken. Then again, there have always been less-than-thorough journalists, even back in the days of ticker tape, smoky newsrooms and manual typewriters, which barely preceded my own era.

Likewise, there have always been diligent, thoughtful and ethical journalists. It’s like any profession — some will always be better than others.

But even if your morals and judgment are sound, and your energy high, journalism can be a tough business. Especially so in this age of digital disruption, where people’s means of consuming news have greatly changed. Gone are the days of families huddled around the television, eating their dinner from TV trays and hanging on every word uttered by the black-and-white newsman, or waiting patiently for Dad to finish with the newspaper before frantically searching out the comics page.

Now the news never stops, and every media outlet is expected to deliver around the clock on various digital platforms, whether or not the size of their newsroom has been diminished.

But when the student asked me about a career in the media, I didn’t hesitate. Apart from quipping “Don’t get in this business if you want to get rich,” I told her we need good journalists now more than ever — both in a province on the precipice of financial disaster and seemingly suffering from a general malaise, to a world where journalists are often still the harbingers and documentarians of conflicts and atrocities and disturbing societal trends.

And I believe that. We need more clear-eyed observers and truth tellers and critical thinkers. We need information gatherers not tied to a particular agenda or tempted by the fruits of corruption.

We need more storytellers who can collect and distil and demystify the complexities, subtleties and frailties of the human condition and encourage people to share their experiences.

I believe we fulfil a key role in informing our communities, and that our work will continue to have value, long after the last newspaper has come off the press, the last supper-hour news show has aired and digital news itself has made way for the next big thing.

Recent columns by this author

PAM FRAMPTON: Harold and Barbara — a fork in the road

PAM FRAMPTON: Harold and Barbara — two lives in the balance

Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton


 

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