Hacking Scandal: Why student journalists should be the most worried
Journalism students are told they will be mistrusted, disliked and belittled in the first week of studying the trade. The public will always hate you, they are told, and you have to be fierce enough to go after the story they will read the next day despite this. Persistence and harassment are taught as means to get the truth and the byline.
Journalists get their fair share of rejection and closed doors, but the phone hacking scandal has brought about a new kind of distrust. The News of the World has closed its doors after 168 years of business – and as much as the hacking of hundreds of phones was an atrocious insult to the profession of journalism, I doubt its competitors wanted so many journalists to lose their jobs.
Breaking the rules in the name of holding someone accountable for their actions is what drives journalism – the public interest is always the winner. If a politician is corrupt and the only way to expose him is with leaked files or by using information given by someone who was told to be quiet about it, there will hardly be consequences for the journalist writing the story.
Putting all journalism under scrutiny, as the prime minister has suggested, is a huge insult to newspapers that have upheld their morals throughout the years – in short, punishing journalists who didn’t hack phones is confirming a public mindset I had dismissed, despite being told it still existed, is still in existence. Journalists are still hated – even the ones with big brand names behind them.
And this makes it all the more difficult to break into the world of professional journalism. Besides the obvious fact that 200 journalists are now unemployed and there is one less employer in the country – regardless of how unethical it was – the mistrust of journalists is even bigger now.
Trainee journalists have little to fall back on already; it’s very difficult to be taken seriously without the big newspaper brands behind you and your desire to write the story. This is why we are taught to be pushy and persistent to get interviews and good quotes – but how much more persistent will we have to be when hatred for journalists is at an all time high? How will we be trusted to go into newsrooms if newsrooms themselves are being mistrusted all over the UK? Short answer: we won’t. And a profession that was already incredibly competitive will have turned impossible.
The misconception that journalists look for the juiciest headlines for the money has to be corrected; isn’t a truth universally acknowledged that journalists don’t get very high pay? All professions have their good and bad.
If the public really want all newsrooms to be scrutinized, if this is really what needs to be done, I think some time along the way journalists have failed at having a dialogue with their readership. Yes, social media has paved the way for some amazing communication between the public and the newspapers, but was it enough to shed away the harsh image journalism had gotten over the years? The only ones who should be scrutinized are the ones who gave reason to be scrutinized.
We are all involved; press, public and politicians, but only one can take the blame; the press. News of the World journalists who have lost their jobs have diminished trainee journalists chances to get jobs in the future; now there are 200 experienced journalists we must compete with when applying for a job. And the overall scandal has, unfortunately, made all journalists look bad. And those who merely aspire to be journalists look even worse.
Picture:ReutersTagged in: journalism, news of the world, phone hacking
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