Education is the other side of the coin. Education is the way out of ignorance or, better still, out of knowledge. Knowledge without a foundation is like an iceberg without water; it floats and disappears. Education digs deep, takes hold and holds the rocks firm. On the one hand, you have the trickle of society’s illiteracy and on the other hand – education.
Like the ice and snow that keep on melting, journalism and news means different things to different people. To some people news is strictly a matter of officialdom: the daily newspaper, the evening news, the top news channels. To others, it is personal, family, local, regional, international and even global news: breaking news on your TV screen, a story about your favourite player, the latest piece of news from a war-torn country. You could say that we are always in need of journalism because it makes us see, understand and remember things differently. You could also say that it doesn’t make much difference because what really matters is understanding.
For most newspapers and broadcasting organizations, the real business of journalism is commercialized journalism – the business of selling news. So it makes perfect sense for them to concentrate on business news. Business news is not a matter of public importance, as, for example, national education: a school in Massachusetts trying to keep its books up to date would not be too keen on reporting on the latest developments in that state or the general election there.
What newspaper and broadcasting enterprises are really interested in is hard, cold business news – the stuff that sells. A recent case illustrates this quite well. A Chinese restaurant in Florida had just suffered a terrorist attack, with all its patrons and staff and their guests being taken hostage inside. The television news showed pictures of the bodies strewn all over the restaurant, and there was an appeal on the television news for anyone who may have heard any of the following: ‘The manager at this Chinese restaurant has locked all the doors! Anyone who comes out of this restaurant is being shot dead!”
This is hard, cold business news. It sells well, and the mass media has proved itself in this respect. But it is certainly not human-interest journalism.
Human interest in the broad sense of the word is the stuff that is newsworthy, which interest people in their own lives, and which they want to know more about. It might be the latest crash between a private jet and a government aircraft, or the latest gossip in the tabloids about the split between Prince William and Kate Middleton. But it is newsworthy only if it raises the profile of the subject, whether it is the breaking news report of a car accident or the detailed description of the internal politics of a government cabinet. But it is newsworthy only if it causes a reaction in the reader, and this is where the danger lies for the various mass-media organisations.
If a piece of news, no matter how serious, is not judged by the public in an Interested Way, it will simply not get seen by anyone. There is an old saying that states, “All news is public relations”, and this is certainly true. If the purpose of the print media was to raise awareness, or inform the public, then perhaps broadcasting news would be classed as Journalism. But when it comes to journalism, the aim is clearly to report the news and give it a wide readership. This can be broadly divided into two forms: broadcast and printed media.
Most newspapers and magazines do not publish news stories simply for the heck of broadcasting it. They will choose stories that will interest their readership and then edit them to suit the format of the paper. However, even though this form of mass media journalism has become more prominent in recent years, there are still some significant limitations in its use. For instance, many of the current affairs broadcasts, from the BBC and CNN to the ABC, have been widely condemned for inaccuracies, for example.