Journalism tech is new but rules aren’t

Journalism has changed a great deal over the past few years and will continue to change as social media replaces so much of our traditional viewing and reading sources. What hasn’t changed, however, are the rules of journalism.

The difference between getting your news from professionals or from the local gossips is the motivation of the teller of the tale.  A professional journalist looks upon ‘News’ as his or her stock in trade. Collection and dissemination of this news is the way he or she makes money and serves customers. It is a job and not a pastime. A gossiper sees ‘News’ as his or her power source or hobby. The collection and dissemination of this news is the way he or she fills in time and obtains a status in the community. Making money is not a motivation but, at most, a side benefit. All this means that the pro has an occupation within an industry while the gossip is usually a loner. An industry and an occupational category implies a set of rules keeping everyone on the same path. A loner doesn’t need and most often doesn’t want to be bound by rules.

The rules applied to the industry of journalism have been created largely for the good of the public. This isn’t an altruistic, self-serving statement. It is true because journalists who follow the rules get a lot of support and protection from the state and from the people of the state because they do toe the line. Canada, like other democratic countries, has laws protecting the professional practice of journalism by guaranteeing freedom of ‘the press’. There also is a guarantee of free speech but freedom of the press goes farther since it enables journalists to get access not afforded the general public and to say things without too much fear of being sued.

The rules of journalism are written and unwritten. A pro knows what they are and tries very hard to follow them. Without a listing of them, suffice it to say that these rules are good for society. This means it is best for us all if professional journalism remains no matter the technology used to spread the news. A news and information-oriented website should employ professional journalists. News blogs should be written by pros. Video news sites should be supplied by professional staffers and/or freelancers.

Gossiping is fine for sites and blogs that don’t pretend to do ‘journalism’. Anyone working for a real journalism outlet must be trained and must follow the rules. It isn’t old-fashioned to be a pro; it is an essential even for those telling what’s new to Millennial readers, listeners and viewers.