What’s journalism anyway? It’s complicated

Alabama head coach Nick Saban arrives for his SEC Media Days press conference at the College Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in Atlanta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban arrives for his SEC Media Days press conference at the College Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in Atlanta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

It’s often hard to understand a job beyond its two-sentence explanation.

Take journalism for example.

The American Press Institute explains it this way: "Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities."

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Yeah, but that explanation on its own is far too simplistic.

I’ll drill deeper.

Journalism is crying in your car after interviewing the mother of a kid flattened by a car or gunned down in the street. Journalism is letting her tears drip into the story that pounds out from your fingertips.

Journalism is recording when a school board president seeks re-election and when a teacher sexually abuses a student.

Journalism is finding out why there is a Japanese beetle explosion and why there are so many deaths on a stretch of highway.

Journalism is questioning a man with a badge, gun and the public trust.

It is asking an elected official the same question in 20 different ways until he or she gives an actual answer.

Journalism is a 21-year-old recent college grad seeing her first burned body as it sits motionlessly in what remains of a sports car.

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Journalism is telling people why pork prices are soaring or plunging.

Journalism is going after the story even when the dogs are barking and a suspect is yelling bloody murder. Journalism is telling everyone about the best steak in town and when the health department finds rat droppings at everyone’s favorite dive.

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HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16: Members of the U.S and Russian press film as a man is escorted from the room by Finnish Secret service agents ahead of the start of the joint press conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. The two leaders met one-on-one and discussed a range of issues including the 2016 U.S Election collusion. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Credit: Chris McGrath

HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16: Members of the U.S and Russian press film as a man is escorted from the room by Finnish Secret service agents ahead of the start of the joint press conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. The two leaders met one-on-one and discussed a range of issues including the 2016 U.S Election collusion.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Credit: Chris McGrath

caption arrowCaption
HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16: Members of the U.S and Russian press film as a man is escorted from the room by Finnish Secret service agents ahead of the start of the joint press conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. The two leaders met one-on-one and discussed a range of issues including the 2016 U.S Election collusion. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Credit: Chris McGrath

Credit: Chris McGrath

Journalism is announcing the salmonella outbreak and that the hospital’s ER is shut down.

It is sounding the alarm when our favorite sons fail and our favorite daughters die.

Journalism is documenting community milestones: triumphs and tragedies.

It is running to the scene of an accident and into a hostile or frightened crowd.

Journalism is standing in a rainstorm and typing on the sidelines.

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It is the hottest shorts and why everyone will be wearing animal prints this fall.

Journalism is what we want to know, what we don’t want to know and what we wish we could forget.

Journalism is questioning why the rent is too dang high and why newborns are dying disproportionately to the national average.

It is reading the fine print, it is crunching the numbers and it is somehow explaining your finding in a way that nearly everyone can understand.

Journalism is explaining a levy and a mill.

 

It is shouting questions and not always raising your hand.

Journalism is being nice. Journalism is calling out the nasty.

Journalism rides on a high horse even when its practitioners fall off.

Journalism is reminding people that the storm has an eye and experts say they should wear sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer.

It is making people more than just statistics and lines on a budget sheet.

Journalism pushes back. Journalism pulls us forward.

Journalism is quick hits and long investigations.

Journalism is diving for truth even if it can’t be found.

Journalism is digging for justice even if it can’t be found.

Journalism is complicated.

Its practitioners are complicated.

The world we cover is complicated.

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