What is the Purpose of a Journalist? pt. 2

unnamedIn part 1, I talked about the challenges that come with journalism being both a business and a service. However, in this post, I want to key in on the service aspect of journalism. Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is who do I serve? Yes, the news media should exist to inform the public, but when you really think about it, there at least two different ways to approach this “service” aspect of journalism.

Currently, as the editor in chief of my university’s newspaper, I’ve been faced with the challenge of determining who the school’s publication exists to serve – the students or the administration? As a newspaper, especially of a school, you represent something whether it be your organization, cause or country. However, you also have a responsibility to keep your audience informed whether the news about what you represent is positive or negative; otherwise, you walk the fine line of being biased. The dilemma I have found myself facing quite frequently is wanting to keep students informed while at the same time respecting my school’s reputation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I really love my school and I believe it has so much to offer. There is definitely a lot of good news to cover, but when things come up that concern students, I would like to be able to give them the information they want to know. After all, isn’t that what a newspaper is for? Even if the article addresses a “problem” in the school, I believe being transparent and maintaining open communication with students is more advantageous than only covering the great victories, improvements and on-campus conferences. If there is nothing being released from the administration or people who are involved in the issue, students will eventually start filling in the gaps on their own whether it’s with facts or with rumors. That’s why I think there are definitely pros to publishing “bad news” (by “bad” I’m referring to the topic, not the quality… just wanted to clarify that).

As a student and an editor in chief, I definitely want to respect my school and highlight all our accomplishes. I want our newspaper to be a great representation of the university, but does that mean we can’t publish stories that address areas of improvement or weaknesses in our school as well? Isn’t it biased to only publish good news? How do you respectfully publish “bad news”? Thoughts?

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