Why Should We Care about Journalism?

A couple of years ago, when I was in the awkward stage of trying to discover what I would like for my future and what I wouldn’t, I asked myself: What exactly is journalism? What can it provide? According to my (admittedly immigrant) Eastern European parents, it is a condemned field of study with little to look forward to in the next few decades. No national recognition, they said, and too little money. So much trouble. What is the point?

Online opinion-sharing forums include endless comments of people sharing their own negative experiences or the negative experiences of those they know. There exists astoundingly little counterbalance by positive-experience posts. The majority claim masses of student debt that cannot be paid off, unreasonable work hours and toxic environments. 

On the consumer end of the story, things aren’t much better. Ordinary people used to be a large facilitator of journalism and news. While people’s tastes for news consumption haven’t changed, their mode of consumption surely has. The traditional printed newspaper has waned into a desperate shadow of its past. Instead of ordering a subscription to a morning paper, or eagerly awaiting a weekly gossip columnist, people are flocking to digital news sites and social media. And while some elements of this traditional paper have been replicated into a digital version, readership has declined in favor of free (albeit unreliable) media sites. With reduced readership comes a reduction in credible journalists who orchestrate well-researched and carefully crafted stories. No more are journalists considered the well-respected, essential figures they used to be. 

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at a Ukrainian journalism firm. I directly saw the damage of the above statements, of a small staff and a forcibly increased focus on cheap, often uncredible news in order to at least maintain readership. I heard disheartening stories about the struggles the company went through when Covid-19 hit–about journalists who kept suitcases packed in their cars in case that someone got sick. If the company would have to quarantine, all the reporters were ready to lock themselves in the company building and keep working–because even when the world halts, the news cannot. Such are the participants in this profession: strong-willed, hard working, motivated beyond any (relatively) small reward such as fame or fortune.

So despite the criticism the field of journalism has faced, I can’t help but advocate for its continuance. Because journalism often has a larger purpose than short-term profit. At least, in my own admittedly limited experience in the field of journalism, I have seen reporters fight almost infinitely for what they think is right. They fight to give people the truth and form a connection between ordinary people and extraordinary events that otherwise would not have been possible. They search, they discover, and they give the entirety of their findings to the people no matter the cost. 

I wish parents would stop telling their kids that there is nothing to come from being a reporter, that it is not a noble enough profession for children to pursue. I wish people would respect journalists for the important work they do. What could be more meritable than pursuing a story to the ends of the Earth, into the depths of everything that threatens humanity, to ensure that people receive credible, often necessary news?