From shootings to tornadoes to human-interest stories, thousands of journalists are
chronicling the world around us. It’s a pivotal time to be in the business, as the medium is
ever changing. Reporters are trading their newspaper briefs for Twitter updates and web
blogs. Yet, no matter where technology takes us, the material is the same: to deliver news
pertinent to the community.
PROTECTED BY LAW
Journalism is the only career protected by the First Amendment. Free speech allows
people to say what they want, and it also allows reporters to protect people who are their
trusted sources. Courts cannot fight this and seldom try to, and that’s what makes it one
of the most impressionable career paths anyone can take. You will never find a job that
has this kind of power.
This kind of protection also gives journalists the ability to develop trust and respect with
sources. Confidentiality is key when it comes to powerful storytelling, all while
protecting the safety of your source. Revealing the story of a domestic violence victim or
a criminal can be compelling. Though having their identity may be even more interesting
to your story, having this type of story alone can be intriguing enough to get people
hooked to your work.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
It’s with power that journalists can be instigators for change. With the open records act,
journalists can hold businesses and political officials accountable.
In June 1972, two reporters from The Washington Post discovered one of the most
powerful men in the country – President Richard Nixon – was involved in a scandal
known as Watergate.
It’s one of the most defining moments in journalism history: a president is up for reelection,
a country is knee-deep in a highly controversial war and a break-in at a hotel in
Young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein quickly became a household name
during the Watergate scandal. The two wrote a series of articles over a two-year
timeframe, with the help of an anonymous informant, “Deep Throat.” The stories linked
President Richard Nixon to the 1972 scandal, and eventually Nixon resigned.
The Watergate Scandal paved a path for investigative journalism, and helped reporters reexamine
the value of keeping a sources anonymity. Nearly 31 years after Nixon’s
resignation, we learned the whistleblower Deep Throat was Federal Bureau of
Investigation Associate Director W. Mark Felt. His identity was revealed in 2005, right
before his death. The journalists never revealed the details on the man’s identity, even to
family members, to protect Felt’s identity. In the case of Woodward and Bernstein, their devotion to the story truly paid off. Their reporting won them a Pulitzer Prize and it was the foundation of their best-selling book “All the President’s Men.”
THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM
Again, the medium may continue to evolve, but the art of storytelling remains the same.
Journalists will have to learn to adapt with technology and social media. They will have
to be aggressive, quick thinking and easy to adapt to their surroundings. The jobs are few
and far between and the skill set is even more diverse because of it. If you can multitask
and tell a compelling story, you may have just what it takes to succeed. With flexibility
and understanding, journalists will find much success in this competitive business.