Journalism & Social Work

Is Journalism social work? This is a question i’ve been puzzled with for the last hour or so. I’ve argued circles around this thing and I’m hoping that by the end of this post i’ll have a more concrete idea on wheter it is or it isn’t. From what I know, Journalism is a service.

Google language defines service as “the action of helping or doing work for someone.


“millions are involved in voluntary service”

synonyms:favor, kindness, good turn, helping hand;

To an extent, Journalism is doing just that. It keeps people informed and does the work to do just that. I think the difference between journalism and areas of service is how intrusive journalism is. Journaists make all the rules. A service is provided, but the audience has no say in what is being provided to them. I think this is where things get tricky. When done ethically, I think that It’s easy to count journalism as social work; however, when it’s done unethically, journalism is not social work.

I think this is best expressed through an example in Wilkin’s Media Ethics and Cases, where he differentiates the jobs of that of journalists and those in public relations. Both fields want publicitity and from there they part. “To the public relations professional, the lack of breaking news is newsworthy. Plants that operate safely adn are not laying off any employees…are signs that things are operating smoothly and make for astory that the pubic should hear. To the journalist, the opposite is ture. Plants only makenews when they endanger the public safety,” (65). While it primarily the public relations professional’s job to make the plant look good, the journalist is the one that does the dirty work.

Utilitarianism applies. Journalists provide services for the people overall. Those that it may harm or not support are a casualty to the knowledge it supplies to the people. One other hand, the public relations professional is a social worker for the company and the company alone. It’s job is to make the company money. The journalist job is not to make money. That’s what makes journalism a different service than others. Journalists aren’t being paid to report necessarily but instead give people the chance to buy a service they’ve produced themselves.

It makes sense why journalists must remain neutral in their reporting. I don’t think it’s always fair, but in order for them to produce news for the entire good of the pubic, it must be that way. Communitarianism applies. While journalists definitely have the ability to take sides on issues, if it were to do so, it would polarize entire groups of people. It would not longer be for everyone. That’s how journalists stay ethical.