Journalist ReDefined

Posted: January 26, 2013 in journalism
Tags: , , , , , ,

Scott Heidler 
Al Jazeera - English 
Correspondent

Scott Heidler
Al Jazeera – English
Correspondent

Recently, I posed this question on my Facebook page: “What defines a journalist? Can you sum it up in one word? The first few responses were what you would expect. “Unbiased, inquisitive, independent. A former colleague at KIRO TV (CBS Seattle) told me, “inquisitor.” Then the blood started flowing from the vein I’d opened up. “Interrupted dinner”, wrote another KIRO TV alum. “Curious, (crime) scene tape.” Then more insight, “Turning off the phone isn’t an option.” “Accessible”, didn’t begin to cover it.

By this time my one word request had been blown to shreds. There’s no way to define a journalist in just one word. But they kept coming.

“Partisan”, wrote an old radio colleague from WIBA FM in Madison, Wisconsin. He went on to elaborate that unfortunately, “people consume news to be affirmed more than informed.” “Honest, empathetic, compassionate, large bladder, inquisitive, witness, truth”, were the next few responses. And then this nugget of wisdom from a former KCPQ (Fox Seattle) colleague, “Anyone can be a ‘storyteller.’ “Pursuer of truth” touched off a debate. Then another former news colleague stressed that a story can be told based on “the smallest of details.”

A former colleague at KXLY (ABC TV Spokane) brought the debate back to that one word definition again. “Accurate”, he wrote. “Credible”, wrote another. “Curiosity”, wrote another. Then another entry about how a journalist could be a an author, a documentarian and a common reporter as long as there was an “effort to create a history record.” “Persistent”, wrote another. Another followed, “NEWS – north, east, west and south”, written by one of the most passionate weather casters in the nation, a gifted storyteller in his own right. “Open minded”, wrote another. “Truth seeker”, wrote an award-winning former KIRO TV colleague. And finally, “interpreter”, wrote an architect friend.

A journalist can be all of those things, don’t you agree? And as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin once said through fictional White House reporter Will Sawyer on The West Wing, “There’s never been a time when it’s more important to be good at what I do.”

Regardless your beat, your deadline, your topic or your purpose, journalism remains literature “in a hurry” as it remains an open, honest window to a fast-changing world. What would I tell journalism wanna-be’s? Simple: Attribute your sources and keep your eyes open. Look for surprises in the smallest of details because theres a big world of stories to tell. Let’s pray enough journalists remain … to tell them.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s