Journalism vs. PR

We’re often confused by misuse of term “journalist” in our lives. There was a time when I thought that some TV reporter from 1st national channel was a journalist. They are actually not journalists at all. They are reporters at best and propagandists at worst.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” A great quote from George Orwell. When you go below the surface, find something subtle, analyze it and find some unpleasant facts and evidence and wrap it into an opinion about how this could happen and who might be responsible for it — this is real journalism. When you report something that is unpleasant to others, when your findings hurt. When you create a problem for those in charge. That is journalism, and it serves a very important role of informing society about something that people in charge are actively trying to hide. No one is getting mental after a report of a record coal mine output that exceeded a 5 year production plan, no one goes mad when reporter writes about good solid profits a state-operated bank makes. But when some reporter tells us that the same state-operated bank is making risky loans and hides losses in its balance sheet using some questionable accounting gimmicks — this becomes a journalism. This reporter starts to act as a real journalist.

Some time ago I have listened to an interview of Margarita Simonyan, who serves Russian government as a chief editor of Russia Today news agency, and she said two bizarre things in this interview. She claimed herself as a person with ‘liberal views’ and at the same time she said something like the following: when some media creates a problem for those in charge they have to be very careful about how do they conduct their business, because government will be all over them trying to find something…

This is not how journalism works, this is how police state and oppressive regimes work. Journalist has to create problems to people putting themselves at risk for publishing false information and being sued. But they shouldn’t have to be fighting the government that uses taxpayer’s money to oppress those who try exposing abusive, incompetent or outright criminal behavior of people in charge of corporations or government itself.

A good thing about the time we live in is that it dramatically lowered barriers to become a journalist. With Internet you can do an amateur journalism if you wish to and if you are good at it, you can scale up an audience of your self-grown media in social networks. You could even get paid for what you do thru crowd-funding and even ads. This is a time when a guy with a laptop and Twitter/Facebook/Wordpress account might be more influential than thousands of professional propagandists in mainstream media. Simply because these people broadcast some biased point of view and not doing their job as journalists. When you have no journalists in news papers and TV, people seek them in other places. That’s it.

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