According to the American Press Institute, asking who is a journalist is the wrong question, because journalism can be produced by anyone. At the same time, it makes the distinction that merely engaging in journalistic-like activity - snapping a cell-phone picture at the scene of a fire or creating a blog site for news and comment - does not by itself produce a journalistic product.
The journalist, it goes on to say, places the public good above all else and uses certain methods - the foundation of which is a discipline of verification - to gather and assess what he or she finds.
It is this commitment to the public good that truly distinguishes journalists, and makes them essential agents of social progress. As such, the discouraging conclusion of Oxford University's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, that the public's trust and interest in news is falling, with an alarming number of people deciding to avoid news altogether, must alarm us.
That is why we must embrace World News Day, which fell on September 28, a global campaign to highlight the value of fact-based journalism and its power to change lives and support freedom and democracy. It is organised by The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) and WAN-IFRA's World Editors Forum, and sponsored by the Google News Initiative. It is above all an opportunity to remind ourselves, as well as society at large, of the important role that journalism plays in preserving those important ideals. Of why journalism matters.
We have just been through a highly disruptive global event in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right from the beginning, journalists recognised the sheer unprecedented nature of the event, at least in their own lifetimes, in terms of its sheer impact and reach. The relentless news cycle, an 'infodemic' of misinformation, and its effects on the personal lives of each and every one of us, made it one of the most unique stories, at the same time one of the biggest challenges, we are ever likely to face.
The pandemic was characterised as a potential "extinction event" for journalism as hundreds of news outlets closed and journalists were laid off around the world, advertising budgets were slashed, and many were forced to rethink how to do their jobs amid restrictions on movement and limited access to information or public officials. Yet the same event is adequate to show that journalism, "at its best" - as Kathy English, chair of The Canadian Journalism Foundation is keen to add - matters more than ever before.
Good journalists have shown that by doing stories that provide reliable information, alongside relevant context, perspectives, and potential solutions, they are also the best antidote for the said infodemic. Access to information is a human right - it is also the best cure for disinformation, or even misinformation.
To that end, World News Day is an initiative to uphold how lives are improved when journalists, at their best, and mindful of their responsibility, tell a story. To showcase the importance of even small newsrooms in fostering a sense of community. And to renew our commitment to work with the belief that we have a special duty towards society, and it must be fulfilled each and every day.
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