As I sit in my NYU apartment nestled in among the hub bub of a New York City Friday night, I am wondering to myself, am I already a journalist or is that still something I am aspiring to be? In my journalism class we have been discussing what constitutes journalistic work and what is quality journalism. Even defining journalism is an incredibly difficult task it turns out, with many citizens, journalists, and politicians having different ideas on the media. As written about by Bill Kovach & Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism, one important foundation of journalism is that its goal it to find and share truth. Kovach & Rosenstiel also write that its purpose it to provide citizens with the information they need to live their lives, thus journalists should serve the interests of the public. But what does all of this mean in the context of our current digital age?
Is writing this blog a form of journalism? Is posting a picture to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook journalism? Is SnapChating an event journalism? The answer is maybe, but it is somewhat subjective and depends on the circumstance. The line of what journalism entails has become increasingly blurry as new technology has saturated our society with options to share information. Now almost anyone can share content with massive amounts of people instantly. That is a world changing kind of revolution that Gutenberg never could have imagined when he invented the fateful printing press several hundred years ago.
I am currently reading the book Videocracy by Kevin Allocca, who is a trend analyst at YouTube. I am not very far into it yet, but so far I have found it incredibly interesting. I think it connects to this topic of trying to understand what can be considered journalism in the sense that YouTube has been a revolutionary website. The creation of YouTube transformed the way content can be made. Before YouTube, producing movie and video content was limited to a small, wealthy, elite group of people. Now, anyone with a smart phone or camera can post anything they desire on the internet. More content is being created and published on YouTube than any one of us could every watch in our lifetime. That is some mind boggling media masterwork. So my point in bringing this up is, are each of these people publishing videos on YouTube journalists? I would argue no because there are plenty of people creating content that is not based in truth, but also there are plenty of videos that could be seen as journalistic work. When there is important news or information that the public should know, sharing a message through social media and the internet can be a meaningful way to do so.
In many ways it comes down to the nature of the content. These days “fake news” is thrown around a lot and there are many extreme views taken on in works that appear credible. At the same time, individuals who are not part of any formal journalistic organization can put out credible journalistic work. So were does that leave us? Well the line between media consumer and producer is no longer what it once was: rigid and distinct, but rather it is fluid and dialectical. In some ways, my blog could arguably be a work of journalism in that I am sharing truthful ideas with my readers out there on the internet. I am writing based on my experiences and conveying my honest thoughts. I try to ground my work in qualified content when it is applicable. And while some aspects that are more personal are not necessarily news worthy, I highly value truth and that is what I strive for in my work. That being said, we need to be discerning in this tumultuous political time as we engage with an ample supply of media out there. Anyone can create content these days, which means they can say whatever they want. Be mindful of what you are consuming as you scroll through those feeds, check those emails, and swipe past those alerts. Is this undeniably the truth? Only when the answer is yes have we done our jobs as active citizens and journalists to keep in check our government, the media, and society at large.