By Palak Mangat
What is journalism to me? That’s a tough question. Believe it or not, after almost four formal years of training in the field, I’ve never really been asked that.
Instead, I’ve been asked why journalism.
But in all honesty, these two questions go hand in hand for me – because there seems to be a misunderstanding between the public and the media about what exactly it is that we do.
Ironic, right? Especially considering the value reporters and editors place on communication in a world of constant updates on your phone, TV or newspaper (something which, yes, I still read).
While explaining the significance of journalism to a panel of judges comprised of faculty and students who have or plan to dedicate part of their lives to the practise seems redundant, I will provide insights from a soon-to-be grad from a diverse background.
As a female, journalism isn’t something necessarily encouraging to go into. Even in my interactions with some of my peers at Ryerson, I’ve heard comments and advances toward my physical appearance more than the quality of my work. That being said, this is nothing new – I knew what I signed up for when I entered the program. I knew the world we live in and as disheartening as it was to see such attitudes still exist, I’d be a fool to be surprised.
That’s an important part of how I define the industry: practical. Reporters do their best to present the world as it is and that’s the first step in journalism. But my definition is more two-fold, with the second criteria being public interest-driven issues that point to solutions to create a better world for the surrounding community.
True and well-researched journalism presents the facts as they are with an obvious idea of “here’s what needs to be done to make the situation better.” We don’t need to struggle to put words on the paper, but we can allow our numbers and experts to speak for themselves.
As a minority, it is this opportunity to speak with, share, and allow a diversity of voices to be heard that I love so much, because it is examining what matters to not just an elite group of people within a community, but something that we collectively agree is of public interest. That means it has to answer the question: why does this matter to me, to my neighbour, to my child, to my parents? What impact does this have on those in my community?
This May, I will graduate with a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson. I will likely enter a job market that is fast-paced, competitive to its core, struggling financially and ultimately an institution.
Granted, these last few things have come up more and more often especially during my last two years at j-school. But I’ve frankly never seen the industry that I’ve wanted to go in to since high school as one that is economically viable with a stable, slow-paced schedule.
Journalism, despite what a lot of my peers may (and still do) think, is not “basically a degree in English”. Nor is it simply content creation, though they are closely linked – and perhaps for good reason. Content, whether it be in written, audio or video form, can be digested and shared. Journalism, on the other hand, is something that allows discourse to exist – it promotes discussion, the sharing of not just ideas but opinions. It more often than not leads to action, as audiences are not merely passive readers and viewers but active participants who are enraged, passionate or outraged by a cause. It forces accountability measures to be in place at the highest levels of office, whether it be at the government, school or other institutional level.
It is the first step in the process to make change and have an impact, through education of the public about issues involving their interest.
Ultimately, journalism to me is the epitome of the age-old quote “the pen is mightier than the sword,” with that pen creating something bigger than the sword could even dream of.