Who needs uni?

Sitting in an introductory lecture for my uni faculty today, and a lecturer from the journalism field (in which I am studying a major) briefly introduced the unit and tackled the question; ‘What is Journalism?’

In doing so, he made the statement that in today’s age of technology and new media, just about everyone is a journalist. The likes of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and of course, blogs, mean that any old shmuk can write something, draw something, film something etc and broadcast it to the world.

The lecturer referred to these people as ‘citizen journalists’. He then went on to explain that the three things that differentiate citizen journalists from professional journalists are their skills, their standards and their expertise. Three aspects that separate the shmuks from the pros.

And it got me thinking, where do I stand? I, of course, don’t claim to be anywhere near a professional journalist, but bear with me for a little bit while I thrash this out.

Skills. What skills does one need to be a journalist? Obviously, an ability to write. A way with words, a fair grasp on your chosen language, a sound vocabulary and a handle on spelling. But while I know I can always improve, I would like to think that I have these skills already.

There are some industry-specific skills as well, such as an ability to use persuasive language effectively, but again I think I may have that in my arsenal. So now (and I realise this will sound very naive and smug, which is unintentional) I very much look forward to seeing what skills I can learn to improve this.

Standards. This I wonder about a bit more. How does one judge the standard of a piece of writing or a journalistic report? Who is given the ultimate say in what qualifies as a ‘good’ piece and what doesn’t? Surely the response from the target audience is a good indication, but again this poses problems. Any old piece of rubbish can become a viral sensation or gain a cult following. Take ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’, for example. I realise it’s not a journalistic piece but it proves my point. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It is a completely pointless but very cute and entertaining YouTube clip of two young kids, which went viral and has now had over eight million views. So, it got a great response from the public but no one would argue that it is a masterpiece of cinematic art or anything like that. So is it a success? Who judges the standard of that? Ergo; my issue with ‘standards’ as a measure of journalism.

Expertise. Now, this also prompts questioning. There is no denying that in order for a journalist to be successful, they need to know their stuff. If a journo tried to write on a topic about which they had little to no knowledge, they would doubtless fail dismally. But again looking at myself, where do I sit in this regard? So far, my topics have ranged from Musical Theatre to Secondary Schooling, but the rationale has been that I write about myself and what interests me. I write about my own experiences. And with this in mind, how could I not be experienced? Who would have a better expertise in my life than me?

So by now you’re thinking, ‘who is this naive chick who thinks she knows more than an entire industry?’ And I agree. I realise this post seems completely pompous and uninformed and smug. But that is why I’m looking forward to this course so much. Because I trust that there will be a wealth of knowledge made available to me that as yet I can’t even fathom. So don’t condemn me just yet.

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