Journalism Defined

Sometimes AM980 airs programs created by London journalism students.  I caught a couple of those shows a week or two ago. 

On one, a journalism student was explaining to the host why he gave up a lucrative job to move his young family to London and go back to school.  He said that the journalism bug had bit him and it was what he yearned to do despite being a success in another field.  The host then went on to introduce this student’s latest report.  The student was annoyed by television screens in public places so he went to a location, turned off the TVs and waited to see what happened.  The problem?  That’s not journalism.

Journalists don’t create stories, they report on them.  They don’t get an idea, manipulate a situation and then report on the reaction.  That is simply not journalism.  That’s activism or social experimenting or any number of other things but it’s not journalism.  Journalists are observers not disturbers.  What this guy did was more like an episode of Just For Laughs Gags.  They create a situation and then watch what happens.  Even columnists don’t set up situations, they comment on them. 

What’s worse is the outcome of the report.  People didn’t react to the TVs going quiet and blank.  That could be interpreted to mean that the TVs aren’t necessary if no one misses them when they’re gone.   But the variables in the situation make it next to impossible to determine whether the result was typical or not.  I’m not missing the point.  I get what he tried to do.  More noise in already noisy public places is annoying.  But taking it into one’s own hands isn’t journalism.  However it’s giving me an idea for a report of my own.  I wonder how people would react to stepping in dog poop in their own dogless homes?  First, I need a dog.  Then I need a little B and E savvy.  Hmmmm I smell a Murrow award!