Journalism is not a profession, it’s a diagnosis.


Conditions for the subs had improved considerably

Thinking about Journalism as a profession just doesn’t work any more for me. That’s why I’ve been thinking that Journalism is not a profession, it’s a diagnosis. 

Stick with me…

Large media organisations are traditionally where those ‘with’ journalism have been kept – a bit like the TB wards of old – in a strict regimen that helped control it. The problem is that over time, journalism has become an industrial disease; spreading through the large media organisations replacing the more benign, older strain.

Now, new technologies and the changing media landscape that have broken down the walls to let the community in, have let journalism out. Now we can see the symptoms everywhere and the diversity might mean that the damaged, industrial strain could be wiped out.

The symptoms will vary – a commitment to telling a story about and for a community not just for yourself might be a common symptom. Some might get the more objective strain. Some the subjective, activist stream. But there will always be a desire to show sources – to be transparent.

Those who are still responsible for running the large media hospitals companies are worried. If lots of people get it, they might say, how are they going to look after these long-term sufferers; the ones who have it really bad? After all, we all know how expensive healthcare is. Lots of people running around with it would overwhelm the system.

But letting journalism loose has had some surprising results.

Although journalism is quite difficult to manage, handled with care, journalism can exist in a community. In fact, injecting it in to a community actually seems to improve its health.

So it isn’t important that a person is working for a large media organisation or not. We should think of the future of journalism as a support group. People who have recently caught journalism (no matter how mild) can come to longer term carriers for support. Everyone is welcome to share their experiences and ways of managing the symptoms.

Those who know me know how much I love to mangle a metaphor, so I’ll stop. The metaphor may not work for you (in fact it may not work at all) but I’m convinced that, until we can release some of the baggage around the term, we need to find new ways of explaining what we do to make it more inclusive. Something that allows for what it is and who does it to both be important rather than at odds.

Afterthought – Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that by letting journalism free that the mainstream media is going to die etc. There will always be a place for those who support and protect the really serious cases of journalism – getting a serious case can be dangerous. But it shouldn’t be an asylum 🙂

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8 Replies to “Journalism is not a profession, it’s a diagnosis.”

  1. Hi, I’m a student at Zurich International School, and we’ve recently injected a healthy dose of journalism into our community. A digital journalism class has been introduced, which I am taking now and will be continuing next year. A student newspaper has also come into existence this year, which features student editors and writers. It’s currently a slow progress, serving more as an extension of the announcement service already in place. I’ve noticed that the main problem is that the main audience of the newspaper seems to be parents and teachers; students aren’t all that interested. The newspaper has undoubtedly increased awareness of certain issues within the school, and helps inform those who want to keep up to date with the school sports teams and their weekend games. Some attempts have been made to write articles about people in the school, which is a good thing, because that’s ultimately what journalism is about. I would appreciate some professional advice on how to get people interested in the newspaper. There is a group of people in this school who have “caught journalism”, and we feel the need to express this, for the improvement of our community. My writing has certainly improved thanks to this experience, and I’ve learned a lot about ethics, podcasting, and different forms of journalism along the way. I see a future in this direction, but I believe it’s great to start early, and there’s a good opportunity right in front of me.

    1. Hi Tristram

      My general advice would be to write about what the audience are interested in. So does the newspaper reflect what the students and parents are talking about? Have you asked the students if the newspaper reflects them? It sounds like the newspaper does a good job passing on notices etc. but journalism is also about the things that are not so obvious and also, perhaps, a little more contentious. Think about what happens in school good and bad.

      So maybe there is an issue you can start to campaign on and focus some of your coverage in that area.

      You could also look at the broader community the school lives in. What impact does the school have on the community around it. Maybe there are interesting things happening right next door that no one knows about.

      Promotion is also an important part of more readers and more stories. If they audience knows you are there they will often start to interact, sharing stories and ideas. They often need a reason to come. But social media and traditional things like posters and word of mouth also help.

      The other thing to say is that these things take time. If the paper comes out on a regular basis with some interesting stuff in it and it reflects the audience, then the audience will grow.

      Hope that helps.

  2. Hello. I think this is a really great intake on journalism, and I do appreciate the metaphor. When reading your post I find myself agreeing to most of the things that you are saying. I feel like journalism isn’t something that is as stiff as it used to be and can be more lenient. Especially now in the digital era- practically everyone can make a report on things that they have been observing through Twitter or Facebook. Although, yes, there is still certain rules that one has to follow as a journalist, but I do think that now it is more about, as you said, letting it be free.

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