Journalists Are the Best Activists

The Boring Life of Objective Journalism

It is now week #3 of graduate school, and last week was the worst time to have the flu... I missed Thomas McBee’s Social Media Tools class! But for this week’s assignment, I bring you my thoughts about a great article by Joel Simon: What’s the Difference Between Activism & Journalism?

“Be, objective! Be, be, objective!” screamed the journalism cheerleaders.

That seems to be rule #1 when telling a story as a journalist: Be objective. Tell us what happened and let the audience interpret its significance. Sure, this sounds great in theory, but who lives life with complete objectivity? I certainly don’t. We are not flies on walls. I personally enjoy a rich story full of imagery, adjectives, and opinion (as you can already tell). Glenn Greenwald, a journalist from The Guardian, has the same belief as me. He said “Human beings are not objectivity-driven machines.”

However, I am not undermining the value of being objective. In fact I think it’s vital in a lot of ways! But it’s frustrating when people say that they are “completely unbiased”… Like, for real? That is why I love the idea of activism and standing up for what you believe in! Activists are allowed to have an agenda.

Let’s consider what makes a good journalist. Good journalists are curious and determined, they are honest and trustworthy, and they have plenty of courage and verve. Now let’s apply those traits to an activist… It sounds to me like good journalists make good activists. The only difference seems to be that darn objectivism…

This brings me to another one of Greenwald’s quotes: “It is not a matter of being an activist or a journalist; it’s a false dichotomy. It is a matter of being honest or dishonest. All activists are not journalists, but all real journalists are activists.”

Activism is necessary. In times like these, when the spread of information is less controlled and ownership of information is questioned, most people are now living in their own little echo-chamber. It has become too easy to settle in to the status quo and accept things for how they are. People believe that clicking “like” on Facebook actually makes a difference. They share an article before bed and say “someone else will take care of it”. We have gotten lazy. This model of objectivity in journalism is not helping. Journalists need to be more than just the words on a screen. They need to apply their discoveries to the world around them and ACT! That’s why I got into journalism and that’s what I plan to do.

Journalists are the best activists, and you should be both.