by Kia Lewis
What is the Essence of Journalism?–Understanding Journalism
Throughout my search to understand journalism arose the need for distinction between essence and purpose. The word “essence” sounds “whimsical and mystical,” says University Ministries Office Manager Grace Martinez, 46. Dictionary.com defines “essence” as the “invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features.” Accuracy and truth were among the most commonly cited “essential” features of journalism. However, many people found it easier to define journalism in terms of its purpose. It seems that the answer to why journalism exists is of greater importance than the answer to what constitutes the character of journalism.
So, why does journalism exist? Media Studies Professor, Margaret Haefner, 55, claims it is for, “informing people in a democracy.” Elementary Education and Spanish senior Charissa Pederson, 20, believes journalism exists to tell people “what’s going on in the world whether that’s in their neighborhood or across the ocean.” Media Studies senior Kaitlin Hindaileh, 21, agrees, saying journalism should be, “another outlet for the public to learn about things that are going on in ways that we probably can’t find out about in our day-to-day lives.” Kovach and Rosenthiel’s The Elements of Journalism says we have a basic human need, called the “Awareness Instinct,” to know what’s going on around us.
If the system of journalism should serve the people, what makes a good servant? North Park Dialogue Professor and North Park Writing Center Director Carol Martin, 60, believes a good journalist is, “somebody who can present complex issues intelligently and knows how to pair anecdote with good sound research,” naming Rob Wildeboer and Paul Tuft as favorites.
What if the citizens being served by journalism are not aware of media tactics, like agenda setting, which can devalue and to an extent obscure certain information that citizens need to be well-equipped for self-governance? Media Studies sophomore Melanie Holsgrove, 19, believes U.S. citizens are “sorely lacking” in awareness. Holsgrove supports the views of Robert McChesney, Communications Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Media Critic, who claims, “the media are the most frequently misunderstood parts of our lives.” The increasing technology and expanding media of today will make our understanding ever more complex. Yet, there is encouragement to be found in the shared voices that know journalism first for its service in a system of greater good.