Give journalists the respect they deserve

"Pro-Russian militant" attempts to stop journalists reaching crash site of Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine (2014).

“Pro-Russian militant” attempts to stop journalists reaching crash site of Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine (2014).

In the past 24 hours, two stories have emerged in the United States that show what journalists have to deal with, so as to bring the answers to the general public.

First, let us look at the role of the journalist. The journalist is there to do three things for the public, which I feel are best summarised by the motto of the BBC: to inform, educate, and entertain.

Holding those in power to account, reporting on global crises and economic events are a means to inform. Expanding our knowledge of the world, through international news, but also helping us understand our domestic political systems better is

John Simpson, BBC.

John Simpson, BBC.

educating us. Of course, entertainment is not something we expect a journalist to provide, but often those times of hardship and chaos require a journalist to reassure the public, through witty opinion and comment sections, or interesting stories.

These things journalists do for the public. Of course, they want paid, but not often is it the case (except for politicians) that a job is focused so closely on public service.

And what do journalists get back? Unpaid internships; sometimes poor wages, and (often) bottom line pressures; reporting from armed conflicts; being accused of being lapdogs for those in power.

Last night Jorge Ramos of Univision was thrown out of a Donald Trump press conference, after asking the GOP candidate about immigration – an important issue for the hispanic population. Why did he act the way he did? He had the right to question a candidate for President of the U.S.A., something the public cannot do, but rather rely on journalism to teach us.

And then the tragedy this morning, when news broke of two journalists shot dead on live television. They were not in a war zone; they were doing a tourism piece for the breakfast show. These are two people who have dedicated their careers to public service, and who were unfortunate enough to be the target of a suspected revenge attack.

Every day, journalists are killed in war zones (or at home, as we have seen). Since 1992, 1141 journalists have been killed, and around 40 in 2015 alone. On top of that, 2014 saw 221 journalists imprisoned worldwide, most notably the two Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt.

Some journalists are not even affiliated with a news outlet; some are simply freelance reporters, doing the job out of a need for the story, not a massive paycheque, and dinner at the White House.

Journalists deserve more respect from those they serve. They are not puppets of the elite, but people who work hard to bring the story to the public, and to help educate, inform, and entertain them as best they can.


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