You Can Be a Responsibilist If You Are a Journalist; In Fact, You Can Be Many Things!
People may expect too much of journalism. Not only do they expect it to be entertaining, they expect it to be true. — Lewis H Lapham
People have different ideas on and reasons why they would want to be a journalist or how they want to be in journalism. Many of us also ask why we should be in this profession.
In my post-graduation days, in my class I had a friend from North India. His dream was to become a crime reporter. He would say he loved crime — but not in a Charles-Sobhrajistic style or being a ‘partner’ of crime. By crime he meant those that we see on television or read in newspapers. He considered it as a form of infotainment and his goal was to be right there in the centre of a crime scène and inform the public about excesses of human folly. And while he is into it, he can as well earn some good moolah.
There can be a thousand of reasons why people want to be in this trade. Above anything else, let me share with you one of them. Journalism allows you a lot of role play. What’s more, you can even make the roles even fancier according to your whims. This is exactly what I have done, all from the concepts I have of journalism.
First of all, you can be a Fire Starter. As you stoke the ember of a previous day’s happenings, be it local or global, you start the fire of debates and discussions. You stoke the ember of a major event. You stoke the ember of a secret dealing, a secret happening. You just stoke the fire!
If that’s too hot to start with, you can take the role of an Idealist. Journalism and democracy go hand in hand. Democracy does not mean oil as Americans would believe it but it is a system in which people play the main role in, on, at, of and for their affairs. One of the essential tasks for journalism is to help build democracy and you can start, perhaps from where the Greeks left off.
How about being a Moral Scientist? Rocket scientist is a cliché, and mathematics might be too cruel to let you be a quantum physicist. The best thing about being a moral scientist is that you can help people distinguish between the good and the bad and the ugly. Even if you care less about the moral part, journalism can help the public make informed decisions.
Like I have mentioned, when it comes to role playing the options are limitless in journalism. So for the next role, you have the options right from the title. Without being ‘the’ Lucifer, you can be a Light Bringer or an Informer. You bring the light by informing the people what’s happening around us. So, Light Bringer or Informer, the name is your choice and the task is universal.
Now suppose you are just an intern or you are yet to complete your degree in Communications. Worry no more. You can start your career, right away, as the General Manager of the Universe. You need not be from Krypton or a Superman’s cousin. Still you can make the world a better place with journalism. In this age of Smartphone, Facebook, Blogger and YouTube, it’s even easier to become a citizen journalist. The difficult part is to save the world but the difficulty should not be a downer.
As we can see, in five minutes, you can play as many roles. With journalism, you can be the Responsibilist, who makes the government and the authority responsible and accountable. You can be the Rebel, who without wearing a cape or a carrying a magic wand, rights the wrong. All you need is a pen or a sheet of paper. All you need is a smartphone. All you need is the passion. With options galore and roles abundant, it should be easy to make a start.
Finally, in the desperation for play role, the seriousness of this noble profession might be played down. The role of journalism is huge as much as it is powerful. Its impact is the engine that drives democracy. How it engages and empowers is its objective.
Even my North Indian friend realised, back then, that crime reporting was just a passing fad and joined a mainstream Hindi daily as soon as we graduated.
Now the question is not why, but how.
Kapil Arambam is a sub-editor, working for an English daily published in Manipur. He blogs here.