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Mainstream Journalism and the Role of the Journalist. April 10, 2007

Posted by Muhammad in ajforum07, Al Jazeera, Media Forum.

Q&A Session on Parachute Journalism vs. Journalism of Depth at Al Jazeera’s 3rd Annual Media Forum

Things highlighted during the Q&A session with the panel was that is isn’t possible to do in-depth journalism on critical issues, especially if you’re part of a mainstream news organisation.  The hope lies in independant media such as Democracy Now and Indy Media for this to succeed.  Blogs are also an essential tool in conducting in-depth journalism.

It was agree that the role of reporter has nothing to do with the Western vs. Arab Media debate.  Everyone makes mistakes, but in the end it depends on the reporter having a real sense of being fair and balanced.

Should reporters report what is actually happening or try and tailor the reporting to give the audience what they want?  This was seen as a big issue and the example of the Darfur conflict was given where reporters would go in-depth into stories which serve the official account of what was going on and did not delve into issues which were equally important but did not serve the official account.

Is there such a thing as objective Journalism?  The unanimous answer was “no”.  With Investigative journalism you end up reporting  situations according to your point of view and your own values.  To counter this, journalists need to put their allegiance to something greater than their own valuesin order to report the truth of situations without tainting it.  In the current context, humanitarian aspects of rights and freedom need to be communicated to different audiences according to their understanding of the world.

The idea of journalistic neutrality is paper thin if you look at the current situation with so many journalists being attacked, kidnapped or killed.  Those who control the wars will undoubtedly try and control the media.  They need to win the hearts and minds of the people first, and so achieving this ideal of journalistic neutrality will get harder and harder.

David Marash pointed out that sometimes there is a lack of time (on TV) and space (In Print) in order to really report in-depth into various stories.  Other panelists disagreed with him pointing out that if you look at US television, you can watch for an hour and see only rubbish whereas you can watch a journalistic program for a minute and get to the truth.  Pictures can also speak a thousand words.  There is no easy answer for this though since news organistations are in the business of news and what is being alluded to is the balance between Quality and Quantity.  Jounalists have a responsibility to deliver this quality. and must ensure to maintain a balance.

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