What is the Role of ther Journalist?
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What Is The Role of a Journalist? This essay will discuss the question what is the role of a journalist? Firstly, it will show that Britain has a free press and attempt to explain what free press means. It will then try to identify the different types of journalist common in the media today, with focus on print journalism. Additionally, it will argue that it is fundamental that all journalists abide by a professional and ethical code of conduct. Britain has a free press. There is no censor and no licensing, and anyone can publish a newspaper provided he or she does not break the law in doing so. (Hogson, 1994, p.153). British press is private; the Government has no control over publication, nor is it allowed to own any shares in press companies and no aide is granted. However, British press does receive exemption from the payment of VAT. The press is allowed full access to Parliament, and Governmental operations are commented on daily in news reports. Britain however, has no written constitution and freedom of the press exists here by consensus only (Belsley & Chadwick, 2006). Journalism in 2007, covers a much broader spectrum than ever before, the advancements of the Internet, satellite and cable television and mobile telephone technology has made news ever more accessible and its contributors more diverse.(Allan, 2005). Many newspapers have their own online editions, television stations broadcast news twenty-four hours a day and news updates can be obtained via text message through mobile phones (Harcup, 2004).
In a recent article in The Observer, columnist Peter Preston comments on reports that newspaper circulation is in decline and the public is now using other sources to receive news. He argues however, using quotes from Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of The Guardian group that it is the tabloids, such as The Mirror, The People and The News of the World who are losing their readership. He claims that quality newspapers including the observer, The Telegraph and The Times have barely had a shift in circulation figures in the last thirty years. I would suggest that these figures could perhaps reflect the sometimes-huge mistakes that these papers have made in their reporting. As mentioned by Stuart Allen (2005), who begins his book with the story of The Mirror's mistake in printing pictures of Iraqi prisoners of war, which were later proven to be fakes. He claims that if proper sourcing were undertaken, the paper would have uncovered the hoax before publishing. Stories like this one undermine society's faith in the journalist. Therefore, Tony Harcup's (2007) suggestion that the most important role of a journalist is to report the truth, could be fundamental to the future of newsprint. Harcup starts his explanation with a reference to a story from a 1963 American newspaper, which was the inspiration for a song by Bob Dylan. Harcup tells the story of Hattie Carroll, a black waitress, who was murdered by wealthy white farmer, William Zantzinger.
a clear distinction between comment and conjecture and fact." (Harris & Spark 1994, p.227) Tony Harcup, (2004) recognises the difficulties reporters face when witnessing news events, that: "...they may be carrying all sorts of personal or cultural baggage that can impact as what they see as 'true' and what they recognise as 'the facts'." ( Harcup, 2004, p.62). It can be argued then, that a journalist must be objective and forget whatever personal prejudices or preconceived ideas they may have. Events must be reported on without bias(Harcup, 2004), scrupulous note taking is also necessary for later referral, not only helping when writing a report hours, days or weeks later. Meticulous note taking will also aid a journalist, should his account be contested. In conclusion, a reporter should be a beacon of the truth. Opinion is welcome, perhaps even necessary, for society to evolve. Debate is healthy and without it we could be at risk of a totalitarian Government sneaking in to power. Opinion has to be stated as just that. When writing a news account, the writing should not be coloured by personal feelings, a journalist must write facts as they happen, not as they 'see them'. A reader should be able to pick up any news account and trust that the information it contains, is factual and not manipulated in any way. If too many journalists bend the truth, or fail to check the facts of a story inside out, then mistrust could spread through society like a cancer. This may possibly, leave press' future hanging in the balance and with it everyone's freedom of expression.
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