Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reflecting on Journalism

At the end of the journalism class this semester, our journalism students considered their experience as reporters and photographers in the light of our reading of The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel.  Peter Lawongkerd offers his reflection below:

The most interesting point from the second half of The Elements of Journalism that I found was from chapter ten: journalists have a responsibility to conscience.  One of the commitments for journalists is to keep exercising their personal conscience and to have their own ethical code because this will help journalists to step up and become the real journalist they ought to be.

Peter Lawongkerd

One of the most important responsibilities and commitments of a journalist is that the journalist needs to have a sense of ethics while they work as a journalist.  Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel say "Every journalist . . . must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility - a moral compass."  They also explain that the journalists need to voice their personal conscience out loud and to show it in action.  This will help the journalist produce news that is fair and accurate.  The ethics will lead the journalist to have an independent mind and to focus on the right direction.

The challenges that a journalist might face when they try to abide by their conscience is that when they write an article, it is not easy for them to distinguish their own opinion from the fact.  The ethics are the heart and the key into elements of journalism.

Bryce Lungren, A Mount Angel Seminary alumnus and a student in the journalism class last year, said, "These ten essential elements are like the Ten Commandments for conducting honest, accurate, and successful journalism."  There are a number of journalists who died every year trying to find the truth and providing the right information to citizens, but they become the victim of society.  These journalists who die are genius journalists because they work up to the last minute of their life seeking to find the truth for the public.  The main idea here is that these journalists are listening to their conscience.

As a student in the journalism class, the most important thing for me is to apply what I have learned in class to my daily life.  If this is the case I need to have my personal ethical code as well.  My personal ethical code is patience, humility, and curiosity.

As a journalist I need to be patient.  Every time when I write the article, I need to make a revision; sometimes if necessary I need to rewrite it many times, and I have to be patient with that.  For example, when I wrote the story about the college beach weekend,  I had to make three revisions in order to clarify my main point.  I needed to ask Jose Morales, Oscar Anaya, and Michael Nguyen if it would be all right with them to interview them for an article.

This is really important because if a journalist does not have patience, he will never be able to achieve a good report or get to the point of the story he is trying to investigate.  This takes a lot of time, and time always needs patience.  Then humility and curiosity kick in; these are very crucial in any career such as a journalist or any other profession.

In order to have a good article, I need to work hard and sometimes I need to ask for help from other seminarians.  This is the part where I need to be humble.  Humility as a journalist is always good because it is easier to be granted an interview.  If humility is not shown people are not going to be willing to be interviewed.

Here is an example of humility: when I asked Jose Morales, Oscar Anaya, and Michael Nguyen for an interview, I had to show humility by saying thanks to them and appreciating their generosity.  When I want to interview someone, I apply the ten essential elements of journalism to being a good writer.  I can see the difference in my writing and interviews.  Here is an example of some of the ten elements: journalism's first obligation is to the truth, its first loyalty is to citizens, and its essence is a discipline of verification.

Also, one has to be curious, but in a way that will not offend others.  For example, I cannot be curious if I am violating someone's privacy because a journalist also has to keep in mind that respect for others is very important at all times, and they show this when they do not violate their privacy.  It is not easy to ask good questions or to gather valuable information; the questions asked are important, and this has taught me to not miss any details because they are crucial in an interview or investigation.

I have learned to apply every single step to being a good journalist.  Here is the good example of good questions when I interviewed Paul Grandi: Why are you interested in leaving your current school and entering the seminary?  Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

In conclusion, a journalist is a person who follows his or her own instincts on how to do the right thing at all times.  The journalist needs to follow the heart and not the feelings.  If I follow my feeling, they won't always lead me to the right path and the right answer.  Yet if I follow my heart I know that I am doing the right thing because it could never cheat me.

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