Journalism Is Information What is journalism Journalism is information. It is communication. It is the events of the day distilled into a few words, sounds or pictures, processed by the mechanics of communication to satisfy the human curiosity of the world that is always eager to know what's new. Journalism is basically news. The word derives from "journal its best contents are "du jour", of the day itself. But journalism may also be entertainment and reassurance, to satisfy the human frailty of a world that is always eager to be comforted with the knowledge that out there are millions of human beings just like us. Journalism is the television picture beamed by satellite direct from the Vietnam war, showing men dying in agony. It is the television picture of a man stepping onto the surface of the moon, seen in millions of homes as it happens. Journalism can communicate with as few people as a classroom newssheet or a parish magazine, or as with many people as there are in the world. The caveman drawing a buffalo on the wall of his home did so to give other hunters the news that buffaloes were nearby. The town crier reciting the news in the marketplace provided a convenient way in which a number of
100 people could simultaneously learn facts affecting all their lives. Today the news media are swamped by the very availability of news. There is simply more of it than ever before - unimaginably more, available to many more people. This is a transformation that has been achieved in a little over 100 years. When admiral Lord Nelson died aboard the Victory after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, it took two weeks for the news to reach the Admiralty in London (a young lieutenant of the Royal Navy brought the dispatches personally, sailing in the sloop Pickle to Plymouth and then riding to London. It was some hours before important people in London heard the news, some days before it reached the other cities of Britain. There must have been outlying villages that the news took even longer to reach. When President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, in November, the news of his death was known around the whole world in a matter of seconds. The political leaders of Russia and China, the financial manipulators in Geneva, the obscure tribesmen of Borneo all heard the news simultaneously. This profound change in the pattern of human communication has taken place in hardly more than one man's lifetime. Even forty years ago, most people in the developed world obtained their news from the newspapers. The newspapers had changed little from the days of Caxton. The process of printing had hardly changed at all, and the only modernization had been in machinery to produce and distribute a greater number of copies of each issue. Then radio arrived. At first newspapers regarded it as a passing technical fad. One director of the Press Association returned from America in 1923 and said that "broadcasting is on the wane. People are getting so tired of it that it reminds one of the almost forgotten skating-rink craze. He was, of course, profoundly wrong. In America, the effects of radio were more rapid in appearing, due to the springing up of hundreds of small town radio stations. In Britain, radio was put under the control of a non-profit-making body financed by government-collected licence fees and charged with the duty of providing a nationwide broadcasting service. The war reports of the BBC radio from 1939 to 1945 should have warned newspapers that radio could rival them in the presentation of news. But it was not until television was introduced in Britain in 1956 (with the commercially backed Independent Television Authority rivaling the BBC's television service) that the television set entered 80 percent of British homes and the way in which most people learnt their news changed radically. Journalism is about people. It is produced for people. So how has the ordinary man's receptivity to journalism changed in twenty years Fifty years ago, a family might listen to a news bulletin on the living-room
101 radio over breakfast. Father would read his morning paper over breakfast or on the bus or train going to work. After work, he would buy an evening paper and read it on the way home, handing it over to his wife who would read it when she had washed up after the evening meal. Then they might listen to the BBC nine o'clock radio news. What happens now The bedside transistor radio switches itself on with the alarm. Mother has her radio on in the kitchen as she cooks breakfast. The kids have their radios switched to Radio One with its mixture of pop music and newsflashes. Father glances at the morning paper over breakfast, then gets into the car and turns on "Today" as he drives to work. Mother carries the radio around the house as she dusts and makes the beds to the voice of Jimmy Young. Father buys an evening paper as he leaves work, glances at the headlines, then turns on the six o'clock radio news as he drives home. After eating, they turn on the telly and sit down to an evening's viewing. Mother may read the evening paper if there is a sports programme on TV which she finds boring. They watch the BBC's television nine o'clock or ITN's "News at Ten. It is an immense change. These are the people for whom journalists are working. They have to take account of these social changes, which have occurred inmost countries of the world. The newspaperman has to be aware of the changes in the lives of his readers. It is not enough for him to print the "hard news" of the evening before most national newspapers start printing their major editions around 10 pm, with further editions for the city in which they are produced coming up until 4 am, since his readers who look at the paper over breakfast will have heard most of that and seen many of the public figures and significant events on television the night before. Or they will hear on the early morning radio news items which have become news three hours later than the latest possible edition of the morning paper. The press has been slow to catch onto this change and to revise its methods of operation so that the newspaper still has a function. That it has a function, there can be no doubt for the television or radio news bulletin is tightly encapsulated, containing only a few of the main facts in a highly abbreviated form. Newspapers are archives, objects of record. They can be referred to, checked back on, in away that the television or radio news cannot. They can describe events at greater length, add more relevant detail, give authoritative comment from people in a position to detect trends and the likely lines in which a news story will develop. But the old concept of a newspaper "scoop" is virtually dead-killed by radio and television.