The industry of journalism is one that strives to share information with the public via several different platforms, including but not limited to, newspapers, radio, and television (Henshall and Ingram, 1991). Journalism is an industry that thrives off the readers, and exists solely for and because of the need to inform them of anything that may happen in the world, be it small or large. As journalism is an industry generally unrestricted and uncensored in political matters, journalists can report on any happenings in the government, within limits, without legal repercussions (Wetfeet, 2012). “The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds.” (Dean, n.d.)
In recent times, journalism has revealed a variety of misconduct happening throughout many institutions. In 2012, The Los Angeles Times revealed thousands of incriminating files that showcased the sexual abuse of Boy Scouts that had been carried out by their troop leaders (The Los Angeles Times Editorial, 2012). The New York Times published an article titled ‘The iEconomy’ in the same year that revealed the horrific, and sometimes deadly, environments Chinese workers built Apple iPhones and iPads (Duhigg et al., 2012). Perhaps one of the most well-known contributions journalism has made to society is informing the public of a report that was released in 2009 detailing the “’endemic’ and ‘ritualised’ abuse of thousands of children in Roman Catholic Schools and orphanages…” (Kelly, 2009). Since then, thousands of other cases of the systematic abuse, often sexual in nature, of children within the Roman Catholic Church have come to light, with 4,444 victims being reported in Australia alone between 1980 and 2015 (Griffiths, 2017).
Journalism has grown and adapted its ways of reaching and interacting with the public with every technological advancement made. “Like the printing press, the telegraph, television and all other forms of media that came before it, the internet has not only changed the methods and purpose of journalism, but also people’s perceptions of news media…” (Crichton et al., 2010). Newspapers have been the publics first source of information on an array of subjects for centuries. However, in the past few decades this area of the industry has experienced major changes, simply due to the invention, and later wide spread use, of the internet (Wiebalck et al., 2011). With the advancement of technology happening at a faster rate as time progresses, it comes as no surprise that this past decade has seen huge changes in the way journalism is carried out. “The spread of cheap camcorders and video- and photo-enabled mobile phones, coupled with blogs and the viral distribution of the internet made publishers realise they were not only competing with each other, but with the readers themselves.” (Bradshaw, 2008). The rise of the smartphone often means that news is first broken by a witness who just happened to catch the scene on their phone. This in turn means that journalism has had to adapt to be able to “harvest what became known as ‘user generated content’” (Bradshaw, 2008).
Ultimately, I would like to become a war correspondent. A war correspondent covers conflicts first hand, and writes about the issues that arise during the war in whichever country they go to. War correspondence is not a safe profession. In 2012, 121 journalists died in the field (Goulding, 2013). General requirements for any reporter include a bachelor’s degree and previous internships or experience, an additional desirable attribute for a war correspondent is being able to speak a foreign language or languages (Study.com, n.d.). Before one can become a war correspondent for an agency, instead of just a freelance journalist, it’s suggested that at least a few years’ worth of experience be gained in a local news source, such as for a newspaper, or news station, or radio (Journalism Degree, n.d.).
The MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics states “members engaged in journalism commit themselves to: honesty, fairness, independence, respect for the rights of others” (MEAA, 1944) as a basic code of conduct. Those four terms do, however, encompass the more in depth ethics the MEAA has. These include not placing “unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.” (MEAA, 1944) and not allowing “personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.” (MEAA, 1944)
One thing all professionals seem to agree on is that the life of a war correspondent is not an easy one. Young, mostly inexperienced journalists with hardly any training, if any at all, risk their lives solely for the sake of finding a story they can sell, for which they might only earn a small sum of money (White, 2014). “You are paid the same: $70 per piece… The editors are well aware that $70 a piece pushes you to save on everything. They know, too, that if you happen to be seriously wounded, there is a temptation to hope not to survive, because you cannot afford to be wounded.” (Borri, 2013). Despite this bleak description of the life of a war correspondent, Borri later went on to say “the truth is, I ended up in Syria because I saw the photographs in Time by Alessio Romenzi… A vice clamped around my conscience, and I had to go to Syria immediately.” (Borri, 2013). A desire to shed light on the atrocities happening in war torn countries, whilst not being paid enough to survive in an environment such as that, is a necessary trait. Acceptance of the danger one will face is another requirement. War correspondence is not safe, by any means, but the thrill of getting the big story, and the glory and honour that comes with it, keeps even veteran journalists going back for more (Bennett, 2013).
I learn well through hands on experience, and so would greatly benefit from a journalism internship at a later point in time. I work in customer service, specifically science communication in the public service, so I am also able to communicate information well. One thing I can do to help my prospects is learn a foreign language; one that is native to a war-torn country I might one day go to. Whilst I am highly opinionated, I’m able to remain unbiased about them when necessary, as I must do that in my job. A driving force in my life is the want to help people in whatever way possible, and one way I believe I can do that is through war correspondence. Helping to inform the Western world of the atrocities committed against people in other places, and the complete eradication of their human rights is one way that I believe I can make a difference. I have the “vice clamped around my conscience,” (Borri, 2013) just as Borri wrote she experienced.
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