OPINION: A journalist’s perspective on what makes good journalism

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After four years of college journalism courses, I can tell you this: good journalism is timely, accurate and relevant to one’s audience.

Seems simple enough. Perhaps it is too simple, because there are many other situations to take into consideration.

How does this photograph impact the story’s tone, and what will our audience gain from it? Does the background music on this video change the emotion we are wanting to convey?

I have written on the importance of finding a credible news source, and I always tell people I am a defender of good journalism. What I have yet to touch on is what exactly good journalism even is.

In my experience, it has proven to be much more complicated than I had ever thought it to be. There is more to journalism than right and wrong, left or right. Good journalism attempts to tackle some of the big moral and human dilemmas, because the world is rarely as simple as we see it.

The pace of the news cycle is faster than ever with the introduction of social media in the industry, which means the choices we make have to be made faster than ever, too. Everything from the wording, photographs or videos can alter the tone of a story, and good journalists are very aware of this.

A great example of this is the moral dilemma of whether or not to run the picture of the dead Syrian child who had drowned off the coast of Turkey in September 2015.

It is a powerful image of the little boy’s body laying in the sand, but is it something that the child’s family would want to be seen? Would it be offensive to those just trying to read up on the news over breakfast?

Those are the thoughts that went through editors’ minds when deciding that this photo would run on front pages across the country. It ultimately came down to what the editors decided the photo would add to the larger story of refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Many publications had said the photograph was too graphic to display so prominently, so they simply didn’t. They might have hidden the photograph so only those who wanted to see it could see it.

They could have easily just bombarded their audience with the photograph. It certainly would have gotten views — and thus, money — for the news outlet. Doing so without care, though, would have simply hurt all those involved.

This is just one extreme example of the kinds of choices journalists have to make almost every day. We have to consider the damage being done when portraying an issue in a certain light or plastering a photograph of someone all over the place. We have to think of the consequences and the impact we are making.

The intricacies of moral decisions do not excuse sloppy journalists who do not take the time and care to make sure their information is accurate and displayed in a way that accounts for all perspectives on an issue.

I am fully aware that this happens, but I am here to tell you good journalists exist. They are the ones who are getting gray hairs thinking of all the problems they have to work through and hoping they made the right decision.

Kelsey Kendall is a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Kelsey Kendall
Hi everyone! I'm a senior in journalism and cultural anthropology. My favorite things are storytelling, coffee and meeting new people. In that order.