css.php

Q: In the era of social media, when almost anyone can effectively write an article or share news, how do “real” journalists distinguish themselves?

A:It’s true—in this age of Facebook and Twitter, just about anyone can share what they know. And thanks to the internet, that information travels at breakneck speed to potentially global audiences in a single keystroke, but that doesn’t make it journalism. In fact, this phenomenon reinforces why journalists need to distinguish themselves.

Sources of news and information have exploded, and the public feels overwhelmed. The Pew Research Center reports that 7 in 10 people have news fatigue and are experiencing information overload. The average social media user gets 250 links per day that contain an average of 54,000 words and 443 minutes of video, according to Life Hack.com. This firehose of information makes it difficult to sort out reliable and factually correct information from the rest. 

And this is where “real” journalists come in.

 

The job of the journalist is to present verified information about news and events in the public’s interest. Armed with that information, people can make better decisions about their lives and society. While journalists are no longer the gatekeepers they once were, they are still uniquely qualified to provide information that informs and educates the public. Journalists are trained in the discipline of verification and fact-check information before publishing it. They practice a code of ethics and have the time and resources to thoroughly investigate stories, interview multiples sources, and place news in context. This is what distinguishes journalists from social media bloggers or influencers and makes journalism a profession.

But it is also a craft. Journalists, at heart, are storytellers. With their clear and compelling prose, they bring stories to life, transport their audience into the shoes of another person, to the scene of a disaster or the front row of history. The best stories both engage and enlighten the audience.

So to break through the daily onslaught of competing information online, journalists need to focus on both their craft and profession. As Kovach and Rosenstiel say in The Elements of Journalism, “The first task of the new journalist/sense maker is to verify what information is reliable and then order it so people can grasp it efficiently… and then strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.”