by Eric Scrogum
“The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.” This defining statement on journalism comes from the text Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. Many could agree that this statement perfectly describes the essence of journalism. Margaret Haefner, a professor of communication arts at North Park University, also adds that the essence of journalism is: “Informing people in a democracy, so that people have the information and the context of information that they need in order to govern themselves.” Nancy McCann Hostetter, also a professor of communications at North Park, says journalism should answer the question “What should we know about that we don’t know about?” Both professors agree that journalism is absolutely essential to a thriving democracy and urge consumers of journalism to go beyond just reading and dig into finding the real truth and facts in current journalism.
Rebecca Masterjohn insists journalism is, “The art of bringing news to people and informing them about things they wanna know about and maybe not wanna know about…it’s how we are educated about the world and the things around us.” Lonnie Moore, a student at North Park University, believes investigative journalism is essential for the essence of journalism. In reference to the journalists that covered the Watergate scandal, Lonnie remarked “it seemed like they were doing police work or something but they were just journalists.”
In order to obtain quality journalism there must be a great effort for involvement. Jacob Lill, also a student, related journalism as “a method of being involved.” This level of involvement is required for both the reader and the writer. Involvement in journalism creates a better understanding of what is happing around us and how to properly address these issues. North Park student Gavin Johnson says “It [journalism] benefits most if stories that are written are ones relevant to actual social and current events.”
Relevance is crucial when approaching journalism and ensuring that factual information reaching the readers is priority. “In the end, the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction, or art…Journalism alone is focused first on getting what happened down right…” This excerpt, also from Elements of Journalism, precisely explains the most important role in journalism: the truth.