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Define "Journalist"

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Jun 17, 2006.

  1. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Discussion on the KC media thread raised the question (indirectly) of what or who is actually a journalist in the sports world.  Is it just a high-falutin' term for anyone in media? If you talk on TV or radio, are you a journalist? If you cover a beat, are you a journalist? Is a columnist a journalist?

    To be honest, I can think of maybe a couple dozen writers in sports who I would consider 'journalists'....to me, it means they elevate the subject beyond the facts and basic reporting, and add some artistry to it. Gary Smith...Charlie Pierce....Dave Kindred...journalists.  Just my opinion.

    So (answer any or none, these will not be graded):
    1) Do you consider yourself a 'journalist'?
    2) How do you define a journalist?
    3) Who do you consider a journalist?
  2. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    Well, here goes. Feel free to shoot me down, 21.

    I don't consider myself a journalist, most of the time. I'm a copy editor/designer.

    I consider reporters, be they in print, radio or TV, to be journalists. I think I'm a journalist on the rare occasion when I do report on something.

    I'm not sure if I consider people who are pure columnists to be journalists. I don't think made up my mind on that yet. Perhaps in my mind I look at them as I look at myself, a journalist when they do some reporting, but not one otherwise.

    And the Kindreds and Smiths of the world are far more than mere journalists in my mind.
  3. novelist_wannabe

    novelist_wannabe Well-Known Member

    Going with the obvious here: The American Heritage Dictionary (first one I came to in a web search) defines a journalist as someone who writes for newspapers and magazines, with a subsequent defenition for a broadcast journalist as someone who broadcasts on television or radio.

    Granted, those are pretty broad (and surely simplistic for this audience), but then it's a field that requires no formal certification or training. My dad's a truck driver, but if he could find a publication willing to have him write something for circulation, then he'd be a journalist.

    What got discussed on the KC thread along this lines seems to me to be a level of commitment or legitimac. Print types often view broadcast types as not being "serious journalists," in part, I think, because their medium lends itself (or at least, it's been developed this way) to being entertaining. As opposed to merely informing. And I'm not saying newspapers and magazines aren't entertaining. Radio and TV just seem to provide more instant gratification.

    Yes, I view myself as a journalist (although some would argue that I'm not liberal enough :))

    My own personal definition: True storyteller. Gary Smith certainly is one. Mark Schlabach (and these are purely off the top of my head) comes to mind. So does Vin Scully. Bob Costas. The dudes who wrote Game of Shadows, definitely. Klosterman. Chris Jones. Even ... gasp ... Whitlock.
  4. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I tend to agree with SC here. I think of a "journalist" as a writer, for the most part. Someone who tells a story that needs to be told, or that otherwise wouldn't be told, or that should be told. Give the voice to the people. Give the voice to the common man. Find the story that is hidden in the cracks. Be the watchdog. Tell people what they need to know, not just what they want to know. That's the role of a journalist. ... For the most part, it is writers who tell that story, no matter the medium (papers, mags, some books.)

    But it can be TV, it can be radio, it can even be in pictures or designs. It's just, those are exceptions to the rule. I don't think most TV people tell a story that needs to be told, and I don't think most people in radio tell a story that otherwise wouldn't be told. Some do -- Edward R. Murrow comes to mind. Walter Cronkite comes to mind. Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings. Diane Sawyer. A younger Barbara Walters. ... And there are plenty of exceptions on local TV news all over the country (Clark Howard in Atlanta is one), but again, they are the exceptions, IMO.

    I'm on the desk now -- not writing much -- but do I consider myself a journalist? Yeah, I do. At heart, I do. I'm not out there writing that story much anymore, but I'm trying to bring it you nevertheless. I'm doing my part in telling that story, so I do consider myself a journalist. But I think it's the reporters, and the writers, who play the biggest role in finding those stories and telling those stories. And that, to me, is what Journalism is about ... or supposed to be about.
  5. spaceman

    spaceman Active Member

    Yes, I am a journalist.

    A journalist informs and entertains, and at times effects change. A journalist takes seriously the responsibility to truth, fairness and accuracy.

    A journalist is not just some fanboy looser.

    Desk people are journalists.
  6. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    A journalist is someone who earns a living by discovering and/or disseminating information to an audience without having a stake in the outcome. Not a perfect definition, but it is inclusive of print, broadcast and Web, while weeding out PR types.
  7. Sounds like this thread is morphing into "Are desk editors journalists?" Having worked on both sides of the reporting divide, I'd have to weigh in a with a resounding yes. Writers supply the information. Editors put it into context on the printed page. They're both journalists. (And, yes, Dyepack, so are designers.)
  8. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    I guess I'd agree, as long as some attempt is being made to comprehend the information. If someone is simply drawing boxes and dropping things into them around the photos and cutouts, then you're not a journalist. You're Chuck from Waterworld, mindlessly firing away at whatever is nearby.
  9. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    I'm still thinking on this one, but on the question of copy editors, I say good gracious yes.  Where would the craft of journalism be without them?

    The same goes for producers, photographers and editors in television.  Some photographers are just "frame-and-aim" guys, but I've worked with a few that have been in war zones and truly know how to tell heartbreaking stories with their pictures.

    I guess my definition is quite broad.
  10. I hope to God the copy editors at my newspaper consider themselves journalists. Because when I send in my stories I hope they're looking at more than just misspellings and whether I have the correct year on something.
  11. markvid

    markvid Guest

    I think that's what set Whitlock off.

  12. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

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