Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What makes you a journalist, anyway?

Perez Hilton (photo courtesy of www.underthebutton.com)



Catherine McKelvey
cm146709@ohio.edu

Yes, this man does exist,
and yes, he does consider himself a celebrity journalist. His name is Perez Hilton and he is most commonly known as a very popular, controversial and oftentimes criticized celebrity blogger.

He has a hugely popular blog, known as perezhilton.com, and he is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Every day, new stories appear on his blog, which has several different sections of interest (celebrity gossip, celebrity pets, celebrity fitness, athletes, the wives of athletes, and the list goes on and on.)  The stories range widely, covering topics such as music award shows, the latest who's who in Hollywood, and the latest, most talked about celebrity scandals.

Everything is extremely opinionated and bias is exhibited.  Even the celebrities who oftentimes appear on his website have accused Hilton of libel, claiming that his statements are widely untrue and blasphemous. Yet, the guy still has an enormous following on Twitter and Instagram, and his blog generates millions of hits per day.

If we, the public, know this guy is no journalist (at least not one with an ethical code), we know he prints false stories and we know he isn't the most reliable source, why do hoards of us type the name of his blog into our search bar day after day?  It's simple, really:  Sometimes, we just want to be entertained. 

What's the problem?

The problem is not simple, and it is not merely one thing or the other.  In fact, it might not even be so much of a problem.  Rather, it might be a conundrum.

The conundrum that is journalism today is becoming increasingly difficult, as the Internet has made news and information consumption extremely easy, accessible and convenient.  Collection websites even exist, making news consumption that much more accessible.

With the click or tap of a mouse, you can be reading your favorite and most preferred source for news before you've even washed your face, changed out of your pajamas or left the comfort of your warm bed. News is, most literally, at our fingertips, and it is constant at that.

Online news sources compete for the most views, and they are updated at what seems to be a continuous rate. It has become nearly impossible to decipher which pieces of information are credible and have been fact checked apart from those which posses little or no credibility whatsoever. 

So many outlets for news and information, hard or otherwise, exist and flourish amongst today's society. Some of the information in distribution has been written and verified by journalists, other information... not so much.  Independent parties have created their own publications, and bloggers much like Perez Hilton have become household names as far as the news they provide to the community is concerned.

Given this fact it is only sensible to think that truth, transparency and independence can become blurred and much more difficult to achieve (for journalists) and believe (for the public). How can we detect truth from lies?

So...what now? 

Well, if you ask me, I'd say we as journalists have a long and most difficult road ahead of us.  As the world of journalism transforms right before our eyes, all we can do is transform alongside it.  We must adapt, and we must put forth our best effort at adaption.

Now, we must strive to tell the truth to the best of our abilities, serve the community by all means possible, act independently and always strive to be transparent.  With time, these codes will become more and more difficult to achieve.

However, in a world so clouded with opinion based and plainly false journalism, those of us who seek the truth, first and foremost, and abide by our code of ethics will present honest news to the public.  Audiences will trust us in return. Credibility will be the key to success in this new and upcoming era of journalism.  

However, this does not mean we should abandon the ship that is our ethical code. We should still abide by our code of ethics, and always remember that we have values guiding our actions. This, my friends, is what will separate us from the rest. Together, let's prove this political cartoon wrong.  

Cartoon courtesy of John Francis Borra

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