Does the world need journalists?

Dustin Gill
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“Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defence, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army — and calls it a war. It’s not war, it’s murder.” — Noam Chomsky

I’ve been thinking lately of a conversation some colleagues of mine were having the other day. It was nothing I hadn’t thought of or heard before, in fact, it was a conversation that has undoubtedly been ongoing in newsrooms around the world for some time.

Back in school, as well, it was a topic of immense conversation and concern. Some people say professional journalism is dying, that it's just a matter of time.

Indeed, in a world where everyone seems to expect information to come for free from any source, professional or otherwise, on the World Wide Web, newspapers find themselves scrambling to create revenue in the face of declining paid circulations. What does this mean? Well, one thing that it certainly means is that daily papers need to find revenue from somewhere, and that revenue now comes primarily from advertising. And what, in turn, does this mean for organizations with a history of individualistic integrity, an industry there to fight for the good of a civilized society and world?

It means that some journalists can’t say what Chomsky said in the quote above. It means, in some cases, journalists can only say so much without ruffling the feathers of corporate management and risk biting the hands that feed them; that without a strong revenue base, media sources don’t have resources to support intensive investigative work; newsroomss end up under-staffed, reporters end up overworked and underappreciated by the public. Indeed, opinion polls suggest the public has all but lost complete faith in the integrity of today’s major news organizations (Rupert Murdoch has not helped this public perception.)

Even the federal government of Canada seems hell-bent on damaging journalistic integrity. It would take more time and space than I have to elucidate the conflicts of interest and backroom shenanigans between the Harper government and right-wing Sun News Network, but take for example its systematic approach to dismantling the CBC. Now, even that public broadcaster, that hub for Canadian culture and intelligent discourse on the air, is looking at opening it’s doors to commercial ads on it’s radio programs just to keep it afloat; and then it too becomes subject to the hand that feeds it.  

So what am I doing here? Why have over $20,000 in student loans for an education in this industry? I don’t have an answer for that other than who I am compells me. What I can say is, as long as Canadian politicians back countries that promote genocidal occupations and our foreign ministers and defence secretaries then promote these states as “miracles to behold” and overstep their elected duties by telling the public of their “right to exist,” the world will need all the professional journalists it can get.

But, if all else fails, I can always go into PR.

Organizations: World Wide Web, Sun News Network, CBC

Geographic location: Israel, Canada

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