The Journalistic Line

In life, there are often fine lines between our perception of something and the reality of what it really is. This is apparent in many things: for example, when we believe the cookies we’ve just baked to be delicious and then take a bite and are struck by the reality that we put way too much baking soda in them and they are in fact disgusting.

Since my career in baking was hindered by such an occurrence, I have decided to put my dreams of being a professional baker on hold (actually, those dreams never existed, but that’s beside the point). I am not a baker; as some of you may have gathered from my previous posts, I am actually an aspiring journalist.

A few weeks ago, I had an article published on The Huffington Post about the rise of online journalism. I am intrigued by the field of journalism, and that article touched on only a small part of  my thoughts on the subject. Obviously, since I am not a journalist (yet) I can’t claim to be an expert on it. I am simply a journalistic hopeful who is curious about the full scope of journalism .

In my HuffPost article I touch on the idea that journalism is, to me, communicating information. This definition reflects the kind of writing I currently do, as I communicate information to my blog followers. It does not, however, reflect journalism as a whole. According to the American Press Institute, journalism is “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news information.”

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This definition demonstrates processes which, for my blog, I do not do. I’ve written over one hundred blog posts: only one of them involved me interviewing someone, something that is much more common for journalists. I suppose I still do gather information – for example, I had to Google “what is journalism” to gather the aforementioned definition.

I suppose my understanding of journalism is based upon my own experiences – blogging, and submitting my writing in almost a freelance-esque manner. In my writing processes I do not frequently interact with other people, so that’s something I can’t say much about from a journalistic standpoint. I can speak about it from a common sense standpoint, though.

In early June, Evan Solomon was fired from CBC news where he worked as a political journalist. The Toronto Star reported:

“The Star found Solomon had been brokering the sale of paintings and masks owned by a flamboyant Toronto-area art collector to rich and famous buyers. Solomon, in at least one case, took commissions in excess of $300,000 for several pieces of art and did not disclose to the buyer that he was being paid fees for introducing buyer and seller.”

Basically, what I get from that is that Evan Solomon allegedly took advantage of his position as a journalist to make personal gains. This is clearly wrong: Solomon crossed a line with his actions, leading to him being fired. This begs the question: what is the line, and how can journalists avoid crossing it?

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In my own opinion, crossing the “journalistic line” means doing something which places you, the publication(s) you write for, or the confidentiality of an interviewee or anyone else affiliated with you, in jeopardy. In other words, the way in which you gather information – as per the definition of journalism – should not place anyone or anything in harm’s way.

From this, questions can be raised about ethics and integrity in journalism, but I will save my thoughts on that for another post. I could write forever about my perception of journalism, but I think this is enough for today. Thanks to my Uncle for emailing me thought-provoking questions which led to me writing this! Stay tuned for more journalistic thoughts, and in the meantime, let me know your thoughts about journalism by commenting!

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