Uncovering the “Scoop”

Admittedly, I did a lot of digging through past work. Sure, I’m proud of a lot of it, and yes, there are still those pieces I want to seal away in a cave. But the most complex idea I’ve slotted as #1 in project possibilities remains the subject I thought of right off the bat. So yeah, it was that obvious.

Journalism.

Currently I’m working on an honors thesis in political science and the fact that my previously wish-washy self was able to decide on a topic of interest among literally any possibility proved to myself that I have come a long way since being a Freshman. I mean that back then, I was oblivious to the interests I hold now. I wish it didn’t take me an honors thesis (still unfinished) to piece the progression together, but it did. And though I spend much of my time coding articles, reading about journalism in the Middle East, or writing my own pieces, I question the field every day. I question how much value the title “journalist” holds anymore. I question whether I should be pursuing different endeavors in writing. After all, journalism isn’t creative writing. But it does entail travel, adventures, investigation, and most of all, an incredibly active and dynamic perception of the world around us.

My thesis touches on a specific field of journalism in the Middle East but for the sake of conciseness and relevancy doesn’t allow me to explore the dangers journalists face on a worldwide level. Journalists have been imprisoned, beheaded, and scared into avoiding insult of power. Ideally, I would like to delve into the specific cases of violence against journalists that have occurred in the past year as well as the incredible unity and action they’ve provoked worldwide.  Because this is the field I wish to enter, I believe that studying this trend may help me to characterize my expectations of the career, as well as the value I hope to find in it.

Journalists have been referred to as “an organization of people broadly curious about the world and eager to collect facts about it, trying to address the common good.” [USA Today]

But is that still the case? How has the dangerous circumstances faced by journalists affected the motivation to be investigative? Does the public sympathize more with journalists today because of the potential consequences they face? How has the “journalist” demographic as well as our culture’s depiction of the “journalist” changed over the decades? Is persistence and doggedness more admired today?  What can we expect to happen to the value of journalism in the future and how has the definition already evolved? And in that case, what is the value of journalism in the world of online self publishing and blogging?

This is a lot of questions packed into one topic, but what do you guys think?! Thanks!

Hillary Crawford

Let's start with the basics- I am a third year honors political science major here at the university, with a minor in Writing (obviously, right?) and Global Media Studies (have to fit in those film classes). Until this summer, I was basically clueless as to what I wanted to pursue. "Grown-ups" always asked what I wanted to do with a political science degree. Simultaneously, fellow students around me declared they had finally found their destined direction in life. Well, all of these comments just made me wish that I had a set goal, that I knew what I wanted to do in the foreseeable future. But I didn't. After I came to terms with the beauty of keeping my options open while continuing to learn about a broad spectrum of topics, my lightbulb finally went off. Oh, the irony. Long story short, I think I want to be a journalist. But like everything in life, this is always subject to change.

10 thoughts to “Uncovering the “Scoop””

  1. Hi Hillary,

    I think this is a great topic, and having briefly considered going into journalism myself, I sympathize with the questions that accompany considering this field. One thing that you may consider as an angle is how war correspondence can be gendered – or how gender identity can be a factor that some people consider in whether or not they would be safe in this particular field.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Jamie

  2. It seems like you have two different paths here: focusing on the dangers that occur when doing journalism and the events that have happened recently or what makes a real journalist, especially in relation to the self-publication era. I think it’d be interesting to see how these are related and which way you’d like to continue.

  3. I think both the evolution of journalism as a profession and more specifically how journalists are affected by and respond to dangerous situations is a really valuable topic to investigate. One thing that came to mind reading your post was the role that social media played during the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, and how Facebook/Twitter function today as journalism as a whole and in hostile/wartime environments.

    This articles gives some background: http://www.wired.com/2011/02/egypts-revolutionary-fire/

    Excited to see where you take this project!

  4. Hi! I’m also a Polisci major so I find this work really fascinating. It’s personally something I’ve never had the opportunity to study, but it’s great that you’re doing this!
    I think an interesting perspective that I have yet to see or hear is the depiction of journalists in the media that is determined by other journalists. This creates an implicit bias, but is sort of unavoidable. Just a fun, little take that you can mention.
    Good luck!

  5. Sounds like an cool topic! Another interesting take on it may be to look at the legal and social limits of free speech in a few different countries, and see how those apply to (or are acted upon) differently for journalists and non-journalists. We actually have some pretty interesting laws differentiating between free speech and the free press in this country that you could look into. One thing I’ve been thinking in the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo is how, in a journalistic context, deeply offending members of a religious group is considered to be a good and brave thing and the proper exercise of the free press, while in other contexts (I’m thinking of the Westboro Baptist Church), offending members of a secular group is seen as completely uncalled for and wrong. I’m not justifying violence in any context, but I find the differences in public perception to be interesting.

  6. I really like this topic! I know we discussed it in a small group on the first day, so I’ll just add a little to my comments from then. The organization I had mentioned was the International Federation of Journalists (http://www.ifj.org) and I think they could have a lot of great resources for you. I also think that it would be interesting to explore the impact of journalism on the public, as well as how relatively little the public knows about what war correspondents do. Additionally, it would be fascinating to look at how movements can arise due to journalism or related events, most recently, the Je Suis Charlie movement caused by the attack on Charlie Hebdo. We also talked about the Arab Spring and how in the modern age it seems like everyone is a journalist and can report the news on venues like social media.

  7. Hey Hillary,
    Really interesting topic. All of those questions you laid out were interesting, but you might have to approach it from a particular angle to make this work. The good news is there are a ton of more specific angles that you can pick out from all of this. In light of recent violence related to free speech (Charlie Hebdo, ISIS beheadings, etc.), one idea could be to explore whether or not journalism has become more dangerous, or if the nature of that danger has merely changed.

    I also like the journalist demographic idea. The impact of economics and changing media on the state of journalism are well-documented, but how has the makeup of people in the profession changed, and what impact has that had? I think that’d be a unique approach to a often-asked question.

    There are so many other ways you can approach this, but I think it’s important to narrow your angle somewhat.

  8. Hi Hillary,

    I agree with Ben that you will need to find a more narrow angle for this, but I definitely think you should pursue this with your broad interest in this topic. It seems like you, like me and probably many more, find it difficult to jump right into a specific topic you like (I am having the same revelation after working on my thesis). Try looking at the many different ways you can understand journalism: how journalists understand it, how prospective journalists understand it, how the public understands it and maybe how they DON’T understand it.

    Good luck!

  9. Hillary,

    Seems like you have plenty of really thought provoking questions to spark some idea as to what topic you are going to pursue. I think it is extremely interesting to considering the physical impediments and dangers that journalists are facing, because that certainly is not the first thing that comes to mind when discussing newspaper articles in the paper or online. We tend to focus on the information, not how the information was acquired. I would be most interested as to your take on sources like Thought Catalog or even Buzzfeed. Can you call someone typing about the “31 Most Important Corgis of 2014” a journalist? If so, what is that common thread that makes even those of us not out there risking our lives for stories able to be called journalists? And is the distinction important? Given the ideas of free speech and self-publication you bring up and that have been brought up in the comments, is there an angle you can pursue where you argue that anyone with an opinion and a computer is a journalist? Where do we draw that line and why?
    I suppose that got more philosophical than I had originally intended, but I hope that my questions spark some ideas or new angles you may want to pursue. Happy Hunting!

    -Sam

  10. Dear Hillary,

    This is a little different from what everyone else has proposed, so I hope it doesn’t overwhelm you, or lead to more broadening when we all ought to trying to narrow our focus. As I read through your post, I found myself thinking about how journalists are portrayed in the media, specifically in TV shows like Scandal and House of Cards. These shows, which are fictional, though with some (admittedly loose) ties to reality, seem to highlight the high stakes faced by journalists you mention in your blog. I don’t want to include any spoilers, but I don’t think that it’s out of line to say that some of the journalists in those two shows speak candidly about the lengths they go to for their career, which includes the exchange of sexual favors, risking their personal safety, or even their life for a story. Some of the characters also mention the lack of pay-off for their substantial efforts in these shows, hinting at low pay, grungy lifestyles, and declining newspaper sales in an increasingly paperless world. In looking at these characters, do we see a caricature of the modern-day journalist, or a fairly fitting portrait? What does popular media’s portrayal of journalism illustrate about the state of the field in 2015?

    I hope this is helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions, or would ever like to bounce ideas off of each other!

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