Saturday, March 29, 2014

If you want to become a journalist, the least you can do is read newspapers and magazines. Here's why:

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I must "understand" why young people are reluctant to read newspapers and magazines. (There's one theory about this phenomenon that you can read here; and here's another, this one written by a journalism teacher.)

But if some young people say they want to become journalists, and they refuse to read newspapers and magazines well, that I don't understand (no need for finger quotes here).

In the first place, if they are serious about journalism, they need to be aware of what's going on in the world around them.

Second, they need to read closely so as to absorb writing styles.

Third, only by reading newspapers and magazines will they understand the issues that affect readers; this is how they will develop empathy for readers, which will help them ask the right questions when they are doing their own research as journalists. This applies also to those who say they want to become television journalists, who, by the way, often get good story ideas from reading newspapers.

(And if you want to be a good television journalist, you will have to understand the "how" and the "why" of a story before you report the "who, what, when". It is newspapers and magazines, more than TV news programmes, that help us understand the "how" and the "why", in addition to helping us answer two other key questions: "So what?" and "What next?" I certainly can't see "news alerts" on our smartphones going beyond answering "who, what, when".)

There is another important factor to consider: If they don't read what other journalists are writing, how can they expect people to read what they themselves will be writing when they become journalists?

Here's something else that should really give them pause for thought: If they and people from their generation do not read newspapers and magazines, then the future of these publications is bleak. Falling sales will result in falling advertising revenue. Where will newspapers and magazines get the money for news-gathering, which is a very expensive process?

And here's the kicker: Where will newspapers and magazines get the money to pay THEM?

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