Don’t give in to “churnalism”

This week I’d like to share a TED Talk by Channel News Asia journalist Akshobh Giriharadas, mostly because I think he does a great job of summarizing the issues facing our industry, as well as encouraging journalists to reflect and think critically about the work they are doing and how it impacts consumers. At the same time, I appreciated his call for consumers to reflect on what kind of journalism they would like to see created going forward. If you’ve ever wondered what we, as young coming-of-age journalists, talk about in graduate school, this is a pretty good overview of the kinds of issues we talk about in class, over coffee, and in the hallways of the j-school.

Giriharadas begins with the assertion that being a journalist is primarily about curiosity. He rails against what he calls “churnalism”— churning out stories about things that happen, but never asking why they happen, or what it means for society. We’re at a point now where many outlets consider potential “clicks” on their stories to be the primary motivating factor for pursuing those stories, rather than setting out to, as he says, “change history.” Not all of us will be able to do that, but “the media” matter to people more than they realize— and as I’ve said before many times on this blog, journalism is a constitutionally-protected profession, and we ought to take our role seriously.

Why really is the most important question to ask when taking on anything, be it journalism-related or not. As comedian Michael Jr. often says, once you have your why, then the what, how, where, and who will fall into place.

Enjoy the talk:



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