There is a certain stigma associated with journalists. Many people assume that those who go into the field of communications are “stupid” or “lazy,” even incompetent. Journalists are subject to a great deal of criticism all the time – from their reporting style, to their writing, to their opinions, to the color of their shoes – most of the public will find any way to bash a journalist. Yet when an injustice is done to journalists, the public tries to speak for them and defend them. Journalism is a thankless act requiring a serious amount of courage as well as intelligence, which is something that many people fail to realize.
There have been so many recent instances where this has happened. But what comes with the validation from the usually negative public? Is that validation really a positive for the millions of journalists regularly looked down upon?
Take, for instance, the recent, extremely gruesome and disheartening beheading of American photojournalist James Foley. When the news broke of this tragedy, millions took to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to voice their concerns about censorship and their condolences towards Foley’s family, yet many people did not even know who James Foley was before the incident, nor do they realize just how often journalists can be put into grave danger like Foley, or suppressed for reporting the facts…
Like Michael Scotto, a reporter for New York 1 who was threatened by a Staten Island congressman after he attempted to ask the congressman, Michael Grimm, about suspicions concerning his campaign finances. Grimm reportedly threatened to throw Michael Scotto off of a balcony if he ever asked him a question like that on air again. With this event came the bandwagon of journalist fans concerned with the fact that Scotto’s freedoms were being suppressed.
That is not the only instance of a journalist being suppressed and gaining supporters simultaneously. This past June, two Al Jazeera journalists were jailed in Egypt based on allegations of their involvement with aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy are now in jail for 7 years in Egypt. Upon the verdict from the Egyptian legal system, thousands took to twitter with the hash tag #FreeAJStaff. People preached about the importance of journalism and how it is not a crime – the same people who constantly put down journalists and the act of journalism.
More recently, journalists have been arrested, threatened, and detained in Ferguson, Missouri while trying to cover the shooting of Michael Brown and the protests that ensued afterwards. These injustices have also brought on a firestorm by journalism “supporters” who believe that journalism is important and not a crime.
Journalism is important and it is not a crime. Journalism is necessary. It is a travesty that many people fail to realize just what goes into being a good journalist. Many brave men and women risk their lives regularly to perform the act of journalism and keep us, the public, updated on world events. The act of journalism is thankless, and actually receives a heavy amount of negative responses. Like every profession, there are the ones who are great at their jobs, and there are the ones who are not so great -but those who are not as great cannot be what people use to deduce the idea that journalists are “idiots,” or that journalists are “lazy.” These men and women work hard to report back to us on worldly events and deserve more appreciation. They leave behind children, spouses, homes, a peaceful life, all in the name of the press. Journalists do not need a fake sense of validation from their readers/viewers. They need some real appreciation. It takes a smart, hardworking, and courageous individual to succeed in the field of journalism.
Look at Anja Niedringhaus. She was a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist for The Associated Press who was shot and killed at a police headquarters in the Khost province of Afghanistan by an Afghan police officer. A fellow journalist traveling with her, Kathy Gannon, was also shot but survived the attack.
It goes without saying that the loss of a journalist in such a way is a severe injustice deserved by none. Rather than perpetually talking down about journalists, we should seek to understand them and learn about them. It seems that journalists are looked down upon in society until something major happens to them that people think is horrible. Support comes out strong but fades fast. The person presenting us with the news is a human being just like you and I, and is just as important as the news being reported by them.
I dream of a day when journalists are recognized for their incessant strength, determination, and desire to bring us the news day after day while working not only to deliver the news, but also to survive.