With access to news media twenty-four hours a day, from a variety of different sources, both online and in print, you would be hard-pressed to avoid keeping up to date nowadays.
I can’t remember when my obsession with following the news began. I know social media definitely played a part, and in particular Twitter. It happened gradually. It started as nothing more than a vague interest in hearing the latest headlines. Then it developed into following an increasing number of news stories online, and from there it blossomed into investigating certain stories of interest in more detail. Over time as my curiosity grew and I varied my reading of different publications, this led to an interest in journalism and how stories are written.
I think it began a few years ago, when I realized the importance of being informed and how that improved the quality of my life. I felt better able to discuss world events and I had a view on both local and international news stories. It also gave me the opportunity to question what was going on in the world around me. While I am well aware that the quality of both journalists and journalism can vary substantially, I leave that up to the individual to judge. Not only do we have more access to news now than ever before, but we can tailor how we follow the news to suit ourselves – by following certain news feeds and ignoring others, by reading online news, or listening to it on the radio, or sticking with traditional newspapers, we are the creators of our understanding of what is news today, but history in the making tomorrow.
Why should we care?
Part of my understanding of the importance of being informed originally came from my father. Whenever I stayed with him, he would always have the news on the radio when I came down to breakfast. He would discuss the topics of the day with me, and I began to see the importance in knowing what was happening both nationally and internationally. Apart from widening your view of the world, it is also fascinating to become aware of, not just world events, but how individuals perceive and report those events. Novelists are inspired every day by news stories, which become the basis for their next novel. They are society’s stories and they are created by us. Everyone should care because we are responsible for creating the society we wish to live in, and journalism reflects our stories back to us.
I used to think journalism was a cut-throat scandalous industry and I, being quite a sensitive soul, would be decimated if I went anywhere near it. I now understand that my viewpoint was narrow and entirely misguided. Journalism is the heart of information about how we live, why we live the way we do and what matters to us. I was amazed to hear recently that the refugees currently fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries depend on social media and the news to inform them as soon as possible, as to the next possible opening of a border, or the next country where they may be able to gain sanctuary. Journalism not only informs and entertains us; it enables us to question our beliefs about the world and to gain a clearer understanding of societal behaviours.
Who can teach us more?
Following this new found addiction to the news, I decided to find out more about journalism last year, and this led me to the Certificate in Journalism with the Irish Academy of Public Relations. From week one Ellen charged out of the blocks, with a mine of information about relevant news stories used to illustrate a point, and we were all encouraged to share our opinions and debate stories and viewpoints. I loved every second of it.
Curiosity is one of the ingredients required to be a good journalist. I always had curiosity; I think it was just pointing towards events that were not of much significance, such as friendly gossip and my own little circle of influence. Once I opened my intellectual horizons and read more journalism (both good and bad) about social issues, health matters, politics, the economy, the arts, sports….the list is endless, I realized that I could become better informed about matters of which I knew little, and it opened a whole new world to me.
In the current era of fast-paced technology, and with a constant stream of news and media available twenty-four hours a day, I am also aware that one can become fatigued by the constant news, especially when it is as harrowing as the current refugee crisis. Personally, I sometimes require a short break to face it anew. I switch off all online gadgets and news on a Sunday, and I find that necessary, but obviously not everyone does.
To sum up I would agree with Rowan Williams who said:
‘Good journalism is one of the models of good conversation and communication in the wider social context.’
As someone who sees communication as a vital part of life, I will continue to read newspapers and follow social media for better or for worse. I believe it is for better, and I applaud journalists with integrity, who continue to highlight difficult and controversial topics. I am better informed about it and for that, I am truly thankful.
Where to find out more?
If you are interested in the media, The Irish Academy of Public Relations offers a wide range of courses relating to journalism. There are options for both radio and television journalists, as well as cutting-edge courses on mobile journalism and social media marketing. Being a part of creating, writing or broadcasting the news is an exciting, fulfilling career opportunity that is most definitely worth checking out. All the relevant information can be found here on the website. Don’t delay. Do it today!