What journalism is really about


Jessica Adair

Journalism is about raising a conversation, and if it’s controversial, so be it.

Jessica Adair, Staff Writer/Columnist

Since I’ve joined journalism I’ve always been asked the same question, “Why do journalists always try to be so controversial?” My answer, plain and simple, is, “We don’t. It just happens.”

“If journalism is good, it is controversial by nature,” said Julian Assange, Australian journalist and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.

Journalists are story tellers. They write about things that normal people are too uncomfortable to even think about. They tell the cold, hard truth and present it in a way that is relatable to all people. They write to raise a conversation, and if that causes controversy, then so be it. But that is never the true reason why journalists do what they do.

This year after the Ferguson riots, our newspaper printed a story about racism on its front page. Many people applauded us for addressing a topic that has been silenced for far too long, but others were appalled. I heard people saying that they couldn’t believe how insensitive we were being. I heard people say that there was no reason for us to print a story like this and that we were just doing it to stir up trouble.

My immediate thought was that these articles were specifically written for people who react like this. Good journalism is supposed to push people out of their comfort zones and make them think about why they feel so uneasy when they read articles like these.

Now I know that public figures like NBC’s Brian Williams have contradicted the meaning of good journalism. It is unfortunate that his lies were so publicized because now people think that in order to attract attention, they must lie and fabricate. Yes, a big part of journalism is keeping the reader engaged, but that should be achieved through hard-hitting facts and the compelling stories of other people, not tall-tales told to increase popularity.

So next time you accuse a journalist of being too controversial, remember they are not doing it on purpose. Next time you hear some newscaster lying about their experiences in the Iraq War, realize that they are not an accurate representation of the journalism community. And next time you read an article that makes you uncomfortable, recognize that that was probably the point.

After all, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations,” said George Orwell.