The definitive difference between a real journalist and your sorry blogger butt

New York Times front page May 25 2011

Maybe I’ve read one too many rants from know-it-all bloggers about how nobody really needs journalists and how journalism is a dead dying industry, but it really hit home today about the real difference between journalists and blogger know-it-alls.

Above is the front page of the New York Times.

How much fortitude did it take for Eric Thayer to look through his camera lens and snap that photo, straining to keep his emotions from shaking the shot out of focus? Did he fight back tears as he shot or did he just let them flow and do his job anyway?

Has Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) thrown up yet because of anything he’s seen while reporting in Joplin? I’m guessing he has, yet he continues reporting.

How many of us could go to a disaster site like Joplin and not be so overwhelmed by emotion that we could not find the courage to continue reporting or shooting photos so the rest of us could know about the devastation?

Anyone can report the news on good days. It takes men and women of incredible skill, determination and a cast-iron stomach to handle news as devastating as a tornado, earthquake, flood or war. The value of a good journalist should not be measured by how well s/he does the job on a slow news day, but how well s/he reports when all around them is falling apart.

The next time you hear someone at a conference or on a blog rant on about how journalism is dead, ask them if they’ve been to Joplin.. or Minamisanriku… or New Orleans… or Afghanistan… or Sri Lanka. Ask them how many children they’ve seen dead in the streets or how many faces of utter despair and hopelessness they have looked into.

Like their experience with real journalism, I would wager the answer would be zero or fewer.

Footnote (literally this time) I found this moments before hitting the publish button. It was so overwhelming, I had to share.

8 Replies to “The definitive difference between a real journalist and your sorry blogger butt”

  1. I always wonder how journalists do that, and frankly, sometimes, I wonder if they should. Did not Walter Cronkite’s emotional reporting of JFK’s assassination speak for the nation at the time? I think it did. Did not the emotional investment that Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams made during Hurricane Katrina make an impact? I think so.

    Just to be a devil of an arguer, sometimes journalists can be too far removed. For example, after the Haiti earthquake, Katie Couric was comforting a young child while continually looking back at the cameraman as if to say, “you getting this?”

    Thought provoking post of punch there, sir 🙂

  2. I can’t disagree with you more Margie. Removing the reporters emotion from a story and remaining strong in the face of tragedy is the ONLY way for the real emotion of the situation (not the journalist) to come through and communicate to the reader.

    People read the news because they want to know what is going on in parts of the world that they are not in. They want to see how other people are living, dealing, coping, rejoicing. They do not want to know what the personal experiences of the journalists are in that news story. If/when people want to read about the personal experience of the journalist, then they turn to that journalists book or even blog.

    Blog are for commenting on the news, not reporting it. I know this nation has all but lost sight of what a journalist really is – they are someone that is there to report the happenings as they see it without allowing their own personal feelings, emotions, and opinions to cloud the story. All bloggers do is comment on news, they don’t break it – they don’t report on it.

    As this article so simply puts – Bloggers are really good at re-telling the news with interjections of their own opinions, which is fine and is the reason why many like-minded people flock to blogs. Even popular news organizations are filtering opinion and “humanism” in to their news when it should not be there – that is what “op-ed ” is for! Personally I long for the days when journalists investigate and report and have absolutely no political agendas.

    True journalists are a rare breed that I have utter respect for, when I can find one. Otherwise they are just another joe who can write well talking about current events – not reporting on the news.

  3. Journalists can be too far removed and report robotically on stories or worse, sniff out an “angle” on a tragedy. I think it is their willingness to tell the story in spite of their vulnerability that makes the photo so compelling; that attracts them to a particular face in the crowd. It may sound silly, but the photo a good photojournalist shoots is not just an image, but a connection with the journalist. S/he is telling the story and you can “feel” that connection.

    I hope journalists always have emotion and empathy for the subjects they shoot and report on. That is what draws them. It is their ability to perform the job in spite of their natural instinct to repulse or cry or vomit that makes them exceptional.

  4. I don’t think a journalist can ever be 100% objective. The best ones I’ve worked with have empathy for the subject, but they fight their way through their feelings, get the story, get the photo and then cry, punch a wall or puke afterwards when nobody else is watching. The best ones never lose their sensitivity, no matter how much tragedy they see. And some stories need some emotion to be complete.

    Bloggers have the luxury of choosing to never get their boots muddy.

  5. I agree that they can never be 100% objective, but people aren’t even trying these days! Less in regards to the photojournalists and more in regards to the writers and networks – photographers seem to always want to just tap in to the human emotion in the photo moreso than more who write / report/

    Also, when I say that journalists need to take their emotions out of it, I meant the final product. Yes, journalists NEED to be moved by a story in order for it to be a compelling story, but their personal opinions and “fluff” should never make it in to the final product. Instead, the passion needs to just be there, in the story.. Bloggers just write (for the most part) what they feel

  6. I love both of those sites, Poynter better than Frontline… but not sure why… I’m sure if I analyzed the articles, I’d have an objective reason, but I’ll just go on feeling…

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