Keep on Keepin' on

I have to admit, I haven't given it my all these past two semesters. I think that by being a few years behind in the J-school game (because of restlessness, travel and jobs) I felt as though I shouldn't be trying to pursue something that seems too difficult to achieve.

My old story gets repeated over and over... maybe it has become my excuse, but I maintain that I did the right thing. The story goes: In high school I knew I wanted to be a writer, a journalist to be exact. Except I knew that I didn't have the worldliness required for such a job and perhaps it was cowardly, or maybe it was the right move, but I opted out of journalism school. Instead, I took some random university courses to dip my toe in various subjects. Needless to say, none of them tickled my fancy. Two years, lots of money and an open mind landed me in Australia. For one year I worked and travelled with friends - the exact remedy to my fear of J-school. I was ready, and I went for it.

Besides being on the road, being in a class where writing was the daily exercise was the most at home I had felt in a long time. I excelled and I became a real keener - much to my surprise.
Sadly, my graduating year was 2009 - the year hundreds of magazine and newspapers folded due to the economic downturn. A true bummer.

And so my bum ended up planted in an administrative job followed by another administrative job and a bit of bartending in between. I was lucky to land a few writing gigs for local publications here and there, but most of it was freelance. Before I knew it, the industry had jaded me.

The next best thing would be to find a media relations job but a simple J-school diploma wouldn't cut it; and so I returned, much to my chagrin, to university after two and a half years on the job hunt.

Since September, I've been flying below the radar. Going to class and discussion groups, handing in essays and writing exams while making sure I get the job done - no more, no less. Grades are good, but finances are not, so I tend to focus on making money and leave little to no reflection time on what I have actually learned in these classes.

That is, until today. I sat down to prepare for my final exam of the winter semester. It's the class for which I have been writing these blog posts the last few months. This was a small class of about 20 journalism students - young keeners like I once was. I came across a fellow student's blog post and she summed up exactly what I once felt about entering the work force. I'm posting it below to use as a reminder to myself that I can still look forward to the career I always wanted, I just have to be patient and not let the cruel world get me down...

This is the end of the beginning - thank you
by Dalia Abutteen on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 6:35am
"I'd like to dedicate this final blog post to our brilliant Professor who truly defines all aspects of a dedicated educator or an artist with a full understanding of the essence of teaching and the desire to educate. An artist that painted and carved pictures in our minds of what our journey holds for us, with colors of excitement and pure thrill. I salute you. I salute you and I thank you Professor Orosz for your successful attempts to inspire us all through theoretical and empirical approaches. And mostly, for giving us hope that university classes could be enjoyable after all; seldom does one class have such an impact on a person. This takes charisma. I'm not exaggerating because before this class, I wasn't feeling encouraged about my soon-to-be career. So, the least I can say is thank you for the inspiration and for the guidance that would, hopefully, lead us all to the direction we are aiming for. 
With the core ethical guidelines we learned and the main principles and standards of journalism, we were able to assemble the missing pieces of the puzzle together to make sense of what we witness on a day-to-day basis. I can confidently say, the lens through which we view our future career is finally crystal clear. We are fully equipped with the essential knowledge needed and are fully aware of what we are going to be facing in this long, long journey.
Now, let's unfasten the belts of restriction while we are still considered "humans" and not "journalists", and look at our main goal: Seeking the truth. Digging the truth from the roots of the story. Going that extra mile to find the truth by taking time and risks. And finally, spreading the truth. That would lead us to our main objective; being the primary source of information for the public. Difficulties may arise but with genuine passion for the job, these barriers and barricades could be overseen. Nevertheless, we must hold our five principles every where we go; do no harm, respect others, make things better, be fair, be compassionate. These are rules of life and from what we learned, journalism revolves around all aspects of life. As journalists, we are note-takers, life-learners and observers, we could tell a duck from a swan. Because, c'mon, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and "hap-haps" like a duck, then it is indeed a duck. However, if it looks suspicious; there's only one way to find out its true colors or feathers: through fact-checking and verification to guarantee clarification and accuracy. We can't afford taking the role of the naive, gullible listener when our job is to be the perpetually alert watchdog. 
They say all good things come in threes and this is where we could fit the law of synergy. That is: 1+1=3. Relax, mathematicians! In journalism, this means, the completion of a story; using words, images, sounds, appearance and hidden messages, gives a greater outcome = mission accomplished. [the hidden +1 is the collection of extra tools used to support a story - although many think this defeats the laws and principles of mathematics, I'd have you know, that even in mathematics there's the imaginary number "i" that makes up an equation. It is invisible and intangible just like the hidden messages in a report/story, yet extremely vital for the completion of the equation/story - looks like I remember some Algebra]. The point is, more could be achieved when there is teamwork done by groups of people pooling their talents and ideas together, or in this case, intertwining and gathering their parts of the story together to come up with a beautifully knitted crochet of news items/reports/stories/scoops. 
Having facilities gives you opportunities; that is why we strive to work for powerful organizations but there's always limitations. Where is the red-line drawn for our job as journalists? It is drawn at the tip of the act of 'censorship'. Censorship and controlled journalism are not synonyms. Controlled journalism is the controlling of the message communicated through the agent of democracy. This is one kind of barrier in the world of reporting and publishing where the curtain falls, hiding some or all of the truth. The curtain opens up once again when the truth has been altered/decorated with chosen and perfected sound-bites and quotations reported by the journalists on stage to follow the news-organization's set-agenda and criteria. Censorship, on the other hand, is suppression and is the denial of freedom of the press. Basically, it is all the things you're not supposed to know, all the the things you're not supposed to see/hear and all the things you're not supposed to talk about - So much for democracy! Democracy is inexistent without the mere existence of freedom of speech; therefore, democracy shall always be but an illusion. Censorship brings us to the concept of embedded journalism where magic becomes the excuse given for articles and recorded facts disappearing into thin air; smuggling information is forbidden - you are not a spy. Of course, that is usually commanded by governments.
Do we have a say in this? To have a say means saying your opinion. Could we say our opinion? As journalists, I'm afraid not. That, however, doesn't impact our own personal credibility - we still carry ourselves with respect, candidness, dignity and mercy because it is part of our human nature. Nevertheless, for the sake of the truth, we still hold on tightly to our beliefs that too much censorship doesn't benefit the public and instead, deceives them, in several cases.
We hold the power to light up a fire, the decision to put it out or not, is entirely in our hands. Whatever the decision is, it must be in the public-benefit. Often, when someone says "duty" it sounds like it is a burden. So, instead of using the word "duty" I will use the word "mission". Our mission is to strive to serve the public and doing this with passion is the only way to excel at the job. With purpose comes objectivity and that is the number one journalistic rule. Maybe facilities give opportunities but if there comes a time when all you owned was a pencil in one hand and a paper in the other or a camera and a voice-recorder, these tools are sufficient as long as you have the will-power combined with compassion and articulate detail as basic elements to deliver your story as a messenger of the truth. Lack of facilities is not a legitimate excuse to give up because even prisoners trapped between concrete walls and steel bars are granted the god-given right of freedom of thought. And oh, where the underestimated, limitless capabilities and wonders of your thoughts could take you... 
We've learnt our Journalism Etiquette and it was a great pleasure being part of this workshop of fundamental lessons on how to become professional, reliable journalists. It is the end of a class that has given us the key to open up a door with no horizon visible to the naked-eye, whatsoever. I hate to utter the word goodbye so, au revoir; there we go, everything sounds better in French :)"

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