Student discerns career path

By Obed Manuel

I walked into my very first journalism class as a shy, quiet, unsociable 16-year-old. I had no interest in being a journalist – back then I still dreamed of being a short story writer, like J.D. Salinger or Edgar Allan Poe. I agreed to take the journalism class to receive a computer science credit at the end of the academic school year.

It was a sly way for my teacher, Dr. Wade Crowder, to funnel students into the class so they would work for the school newspaper, The Skyline Tribune. Little did I know I would one day win an award from The Dallas Morning News and find my ideal career choice.
A September 2011 Gallup poll showed that 55 percent of Americans had “little or no trust” in the media to report news “fully, accurately and fairly.” To an aspiring journalist like myself, this is somewhat discouraging news, because I want the public to trust my reporting whenever I work for a professional news organization.

The Society of Professional Journalists, a group dedicated to promoting neutral, unbiased journalism, states in its preamble that its members “believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of a journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty.”

Though not all good journalists are members of the SPJ, these are perhaps the tenets they all wish to follow. At the end of the day, despite members of local, state and federal governing bodies being elected by the public, the true representatives of the public are journalists.

We ask the questions; we ask for clarification; we ask for explanations over misinformation or wrongdoings of elected officials.
The importance of journalism is not about getting the story and credit, though it comes with the territory. A journalist’s job is to go where the public cannot go or is afraid to venture.

That willingness of a good journalist to hunt for truth is the quality that makes journalism essential to the survival of democracy. The ability of a journalist to seek truth is not the only factor that makes journalism a useful tool in society’s progress.

Journalists tell the stories of interesting people who might just live next door. A journalist makes use of human curiosity and tells the story of a unique person, such as an artisan boot maker who is among the last of his colleagues.

Therein are the two sides of journalism: selfish and unselfish. A journalist can search until he or she finds an amazing story to tell with the hope of winning an award, or stand up to the questionable practices of elected officials with the purpose of learning the truth to share with the public.

A journalist writes history, and that is something few on this planet are willing or able to do.