What are the best journalistic jobs
Why journalism is the best job in the world
Why journalists are still needed in 2014 to distinguish them from amateurs and propagandists: ORF TV chief editor Fritz Dittlbacher's celebratory speech at the graduation of the Institute for Journalism & Media Management at the Vienna University of Applied Sciences at derStandard.at/Etat in the Worlaut:
Fritz Dittlbacher's speech in full:
"For a few years now, talking about our wonderful job has mainly meant: complaining.
And all the comments, speeches and contributions to the discussion of late have two main features: A great deal of knowledge about the many bad news that this industry has had to report in the recent past. And great perplexity about how to get out of this valley of tears.
Medieval flagellant trains
Until recently I knew absolutely nothing about the Hanoverian publishing house Echo. But I now know that he will have to cut more than half of his employees in the next few months. I know this from the Austrian newspapers, which report on such signs with a devotion that I can only explain to myself as a lust for fear.
Sometimes it seems as if an industry here has lost its faith in itself, as if the medieval flagellant trains are resurrected - and the hope that through self-flagellation a transcendent higher being will eventually condescend to change the course of the world.
I am not saying that all of the developments now discussed are not happening or are being misinterpreted. I also know that our industry is under massive pressure. I know that in the United States, a third of all jobs have been lost in the newspaper industry in the past decade. I know that the only major print product in Germany that has grown in the past year is an escapism magazine called "Landlust".
I also know that there are now seven TV magazines among the ten largest German newspapers and magazines - which, as TV editor-in-chief, gives me hope. I know that in Switzerland the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" lost almost fifteen percent of its circulation last year alone. And I also know that two daily newspapers had to be discontinued in Austria this year.
But I also know that the world has become no less complex, no less globalized and no less in need of explanation.
And that is exactly our job: explaining the world. The question is: Does this world need journalism, our society needs. And the answer to that is very simple: yes.
Explain the world in terms of necessity
One can explain the world in terms of its problems, and then one will always find sufficient evidence of its impending doom. But one can also explain them in terms of their necessities, in terms of what is necessary for societies to survive. And trust that the world and humanity will make it again this time. And I'll tell you something: The probability of the end of the world is much lower.
So far, what is necessary for survival has always prevailed. I would now like to explain to you a few points about the necessity of our profession.
Classify vast amounts of information
The English word news comes from "news", of course. Our German term, the message, on the other hand, contains a clear indication of the usefulness of this news: It is one of the many, many news items that can be used as a guide. Judge accordingly, with his knowledge, his views, his life.
News, as opposed to mere news, requires a relevance scheme that classifies and evaluates the vast amount of new information. And it is precisely this sorting that is our job. It is an extremely demanding and responsible job because it ultimately shapes people's worldview. All of their knowledge that goes beyond their immediate personal experience.
For everything that I did not have a part in myself, I need the media as a mediator. A term that has now become quite fashionable for this is that of "curating". And for that you need a lot of knowledge, well-founded ethics and a distanced view.
Distance is important. It distinguishes the professional journalist, the professional journalist from the amateur, from - translated - the lover. And this distance is also the result of a development in our profession. A few decades ago, opinion and party journalism were so much the rule that newspapers integrated the term "independent" in their name and logo in order to offer a distinction that was not a matter of course. Of course, independence does not only apply to political parties, but also to interest groups, economic conglomerates and pressure groups.
Journalists in the established media have fought for institutionalized anchoring of this independence. Editor's statutes, for example, or press councils, ethics committees. Much of it is just a commitment, but that too is an important guideline. The constant examination of what is possible and what is not is what distinguishes professional media.
Be a little moralist
Media to be taken seriously must therefore be a bit of a moralist, even if that sounds bland. And they have to pay the people who work for them for it too, even if that sounds expensive. Otherwise they are not professional media.
I get opinions in abundance, and opinions are always free. I can go to the tavern on the corner, stand at the bar and within an hour I will hear a lot of opinions. I can go on Twitter or on faebook, and hundreds, thousands of people offer me their opinion about the weather, about what they ate today, also about TV programs or politics. About the latest cat picture, everyone can like it. You can also start a shit storm, also free opinion, in this case just angry or angry.
Business model of populism
People love opinions, especially when they are their own. The business model of populism is the confirmation of prejudice. And you get a lot of satisfied customers if you confirm to them that they are actually right about everything anyway.
Social media thrive on this creation of self-referential systems by like-minded people. The colorful but harmless rule this media world: Taddl Tjarks, Dagibee, Y-titty and Gronkh are the big names of a new generation. Youtube millionaires in the new currency attention. Media stars - but not journalists. But opinion leaders about music and cosmetics, video games and hairstyles, and funny things. Especially about funny things.
Whether it can be professional journalism
Beyond the classic social media, there are also projects that seem a little more journalistic: Sites like Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post also rely on gossip and opinion, a mixture that is often divided into points but still predominantly crude, the main thing is to be as cheap as possible to produce. The bloggers do their work largely for God's wages. Every now and then there is a hundred, for so-called "video hosting" for example.
For such a six or seven minute piece, however, you have to research, travel, film, edit, the workload can go into a hundred hours. Calculate the hourly wage yourself - and then ask yourself whether it can be a question of professional journalism.
Then someone else pays
If the medium doesn't pay for the effort, someone else pays for it: If it's the one being reported on, then it's PR. If the motive is devotion to something, then it is propaganda. The "subjective" Vice videos from the Islamic State are: Propaganda. Even if it is pointed out that it is "embeded journalism" if there is careful distance in texting and presentation, the power of the image turns it into propaganda. The threatening videos of Islamic terrorists spread on Twitter or Facebook are propaganda.
Responsible journalists think about it a long time before publishing and broadcasting anything. Anyone who evades this moral task and says, I'm just showing them and not commenting, is not a journalist, he is a propagandist.
Journalism is not
This is then supplemented by sponsorships, through sponsored contributions in an editorial, friendly environment. Little effort for the content, a lot of income from the clicks generated. As a business model, it works fine. It's just not journalism.
Journalism is also a profession, not a hobby. This is something you should and must be able to live on, and not a hobby like collecting stamps or playing the guitar. Not everyone who writes for others is therefore a journalist. I have a garden with apple trees, pear trees, an apricot tree and various grapevines, so I'm not a farmer or a winemaker. If my family had to live from my harvest, that would be sad. And our society would only have to get by with hobby writers, too.
After having talked for a long time about what is not journalism, although it is definitely "something to do with the media", to quote one of the vague career aspirations that are often expressed at the moment, I would now like to talk about what journalism already is:
It is the professional - i.e. adequately paid - communication of information that enables participation in a democratic society. Political participation presupposes responsible citizens; the news enables them to exercise one in larger, more complex societies.
And I turn this sentence around again: A large, complex, democratically structured social unit cannot exist without professional journalism. The information curated by technically well-trained and morally and ethically stable people is just as much a basic need of a society as clean water, health care, security or education.
Doom has often been prophesied
How do you finance social needs? Socially.
About proper media funding. Via public law models. Via foundations such as the Guardian. Via crowdfunding, via subscription models, via advertisements, if you like, via patronage. If I already knew the business model of the future, then I would be a made man. But I have great confidence in the self-healing ability of social systems. The demise of mankind has been foretold many times and has never happened.
But if you are convinced of the necessity of our profession, then you can also be convinced of its existence. Or to put it another way: I'm not sure which of the local daily newspapers will still be around in five years. But I am sure that the journalists employed there will still exist, as journalists and not as unemployed. Because they can do something and because you need what they can do.
Fader "best job in the world"
Australia has been awarding the "best job in the world" every year for a few years. This is a position as a parking attendant on Hamilton Island in Queensland, each for half a year. And to be honest, I imagine it to be a bit boring: snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, partying, all well and good. But for months?
I think the best job in the world is actually ours: Experiencing something new every day, always being confronted with different things. Get to know people, learn their stories, and then make your own story out of them. Often not knowing in the morning when and where the evening will end. Be there when great things happen, sometimes even when history is being written. Being able to be curious and observe and, if it suits you, to get involved yourself, through education and not by taking sides - that is the best job in the world.
I congratulate you on it. "
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