“TEACHING JOURNALISTS TO READ.”

INTRODUCTION TO JOURNALISM – EXERCISE 01.

Education starts out similarly in most places, despite not every country following the same curriculums or using the exact same methods of teaching. As a child, I had come to learn that basic education was comprised of the “3 R’s”, which were reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Reading is something taught early on and encouraged at every stage of education, whether the material one reads consists of numbers or the characters of another language.

Having noting that he had received higher education, one can deduce Felix Salmon is also no stranger to the practice of reading, which is why the title of his 2010 article on Reuters (which you can read here) comes as a bit of a shock. “Teaching journalists to read” is a title that implies that journalists, whose main occupation is to intake good media and regurgitate it in an even more informative, valuable form for their readers, don’t know how to read.

Felix Salmon succeeds in using a provocative title to intrigue readers, myself included, into wondering how journalists lack skill in reading, an action one would assume is only a basic prerequisite to being a journalist.

Salmon explains the reason why journalistic entities prioritising writing over reading can be explained by the world wide web, or more accurately, the state of the world wide web. It’s no secret that the online world is constantly evolving and with journalism being so closely interrelated with the web, journalism is also becoming more accessible and more social. With social networks like Twitter and Facebook utilised worldwide, anyone and everyone is at the freedom to take part in journalism.

Salmon also takes a jab at the Audit’s Dean Starkman, someone Salmon sees as a direct opponent to the innovation of journalism. Salmon accuses Dean Starkman of being old fashioned. Dean Starkman finds flaw with the over-extensive coverage of news and remains rooted to the belief that journalism’s core value is investigation, which is what Salmon believes to be an elitist perspective and incongruent with the reality where people are simply reading what’s convenient and relevant to them.

The article returns to the practicality of the blogosphere, highlighting it as a place where good journalism is being churned out daily from a vast amount of sources and where innovation permits journalistic investigations access to a wider audience.

Also provided in the article are claims of journalism rising as an occupation, supported by statistics showing an increase of 19% in the number of employed journalists over the past 3 years. Salmon emphasises the exponential growth of journalism, where demand for journalists exceeds supply and salaries rise like the sun in the early morning.

After establishing the fact that journalism has grown beyond the leash of old media, Salmon returns to his original belief that today’s journalism is lacking in good readers, which he clarifies as a lack of journalists who are skilled at finding the right material and adding value to it before presenting it to the world.

“Think about it this way: reading is the writing as listening is to talking – and someone who talks without listening is both a boor and a bore.” With this quote, Salmon compares the importance of reading in journalism to the necessity of a good listener in a solid conversation. The simple analogy likens the indispensability of critical reading to something anyone can easily understand while keeping the importance intact.

The article also emphasises the necessity of linking between old media to outside sources. Linking and reading are correlated because linking cannot be done unless the material intended to be linked has been read and understood thoroughly. Salmon lists some of the pros to a world where journalism is supported by skilled critical readers and strong linking – good material going around, more investments in publishers, a cutdown in pointless redundancy, and an overall rise in valuable insight.

However, linking doesn’t remain without opposition. There are some who believe linking to be parasitical of original journalism – stolen and laden with commentary. This stigma against linking brings up the necessity of good original content in journalism as well.

With so much weight to the reading portion of journalism, Salmon believes it is highly important for budding journalists to be taught to read properly and he’s not the only one to think this way, as universities are noticing the amount of critical reading and curating their graduates take on after leaving university and, as a result, are contemplating different ways to teach these skills in their classes.

As a millennial myself, I’m not surprised if and when there are posts from the Middle East or South Asia trending on my Twitter timeline. It’s pointless to try and argue against the ever-growing world of journalism and it’s influence on our current day societies. I do agree with Salmon’s argument that critical reading requires stronger emphasis on the journalism world.

I do not question the ability of an article to find its way onto someone’s Facebook feed or Tumblr dashboard, but not everyone is going to read everything, which is why it’s important when an audience finds itself reading unfamiliar material, the journalistic content should be riveting and thought-provoking, as to give readers incentive to return for more media. In order to present engrossing articles to audiences, we need clear-headed thinkers who can select, reprocess, curate, and add value to good material. Critical reading is a necessary skill to a journalist.

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