7 Misconceptions about Journalists
‘Every doctor diagnoses every person he meets,’ ‘Those who can’t do, teach,’ ‘a cobbler often has holes in his shoes,’ …we have all heard some iteration of misconceptions about a number of different jobs, and that holds true for those in the media profession. While these often tired cliches sometimes hold a modicum of truth, Bryan Hofmann details how several are merely the product of speculation and hearsay.
Let’s dive right in with one of the top misconceptions I hear all the time.
#1: Journalists are rich.
Ok, this one is more geared towards broadcast journalists, but I have heard this myth about print media as well. Just because we are in a suit and tie or nice dress everyday must mean we are loaded, right? Well….no. In fact, my first suit I used on air was a gift from a relative, and the next two came from thrift stores until I could save up enough for a fitted suit. Depending on the market you start out in, with lower markets paying less but are more accepting of newly graduated journalists, the pay can be comparable to that of a fast food worker. Of course the big markets and main anchor positions there could pay millions a year, but those positions are very few. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a journalist here in Nevada is $38k a year, which in my experience is on the high end unless you are the nightly anchor or have been with one agency for years. The only way this could be the average is if you factor in all the overtime, which we will talk about next.
#2: Journalism is a 9–5 job.
Ha! Even on the slowest days, I cannot remember the last time I worked only eight hours, or knew for sure when I was getting off work. You know the phrase “crime never sleeps?” Well, because of that, neither do journalists. Whether it’s chasing down a late night car crash, waiting on late interviews, sitting in on 12 hour long school district board meetings (I’m not even exaggerating about this, and the big topic I was reporting on didn’t make it until close to the end)…there is always something going on, and a story that needs to be told. With the market leaning towards less people doing more jobs (you used to need multiple people to achieve a live shot, now it can be done with just the reporter and their camera attached to a backpack) it can be all the more stressful. But, some could argue, all the more rewarding.
#3: The media cannot be trusted.
This one honestly hurts the most as a journalist, and sadly it’s also what I hear the most. This is especially the case after the previous administration declared open season on journalists, bringing the term “fake news” to stories they didn’t agree with or just made former President Donald Trump look bad. Politics aside, for the most part, journalists and the stories they put out can be trusted more than most politicians. Newsrooms have rigorous fact checking systems, multiple people looking over each story for grammatical and information errors, and are based on actual news gathering techniques. Lumping all journalists and news sources into the term “media” is also not doing it justice. While there are bad eggs and those that make the industry look bad as a whole, including extremely political “news” organizations (and of course tabloids), journalistic integrity is paramount in the industry. (For the most part) if you are known to put out fake stories or give misinformation, you will not be a journalist for long.
#4: Journalism is dying out.
Not true at all, journalists will always be needed! There will always be stories to tell, research to be done into topics and the need to educate the public on what is going on. The thing that is changing is how that news is ingested. Newspaper and print media has made its way online, the same can be said with broadcast media and radio, with the public needing immediate information instead of waiting until the next morning.
#5: Journalists are out to make you look bad.
This, for the most part, is not true at all. Most journalists have no interest or intent to make you look bad, especially if you don’t make yourself look bad first! Most journalists do interviews with the same public information officers, public officials or politicians multiple times a month, and have the desire to keep a good reputation with them. You wouldn’t want to keep speaking with someone who misconstrued your words to a friend and made you look bad, and the same goes for those we interview. There are of course some who earn themselves a bad reputation by being “too tough” or asking “gotcha!” questions, but they often find themselves not getting calls back for interviews, or find that when they do, the interviews are extremely scripted, and usually lacking (this not to be confused with asking the tough questions that the public needs to know, or pressing for answers to important questions.)
#6: TV news oversimplifies things.
To be honest, I hadn’t given this much thought before doing some research about this and speaking to a print journalist about it at the Legislature, but this is actually kind of true. While we do not think of viewers as uneducated or children, it is important that TV reports are easy to digest. Each story is only 30 seconds to a minute and a half, and oftentimes it’s difficult to convey information about difficult topics without simplifying them. Unless you have recorded it or are watching it online, there is no way for the viewer to rewatch what you said, which is why we often end stories with “for more information” or “to read the full story, you can check out the online version of this story.” A great example is the governor’s speeches about COVID-19 restrictions. If we told of every business that could open or every new restriction that was given in a single speech, the show might last an hour with many tuning out. So the abridged version with those that affect the largest population are given, again with that push to the website for more information and “the full statement.”
#7: Journalists hate other journalists from other stations/publications.
Sure, there’s that scene from Anchorman with different media agencies battling it out, but it’s not so cutthroat in the field. In fact, some of my good friends are from competing stations. While competition happens in almost every career, for the most part we are all getting the same story out in the field, and how we present it to the public will be the factor of whether one is better than the other. There have been several times where one reporter or photog will help another station with gear, questions or even holding a microphone. I would say that being out in the field together, battling an encroaching deadline while getting interviews and information you need, makes fellow journalists more friend than foe.