Roles and responsibilities of a journalist
November 7, 2012 Leave a comment
We had an interesting day highlighting various issues and challenges journalists face in reporting business and economic news ‘the way we see it’. Here’s what I shared with the class today – and I hope it sheds some light on our role and responsibilities as journalists 🙂
By GERALDINE PANAPASA – November 7, 2012
Business and economic reporting play a very important role in our media organisation, particularly when it covers a wide range of issues from all sectors of the community. News, features and opinions related to business are reported daily.
The Fiji Times strives to report fair, accurate and balanced business reports for members of the public, allowing them to make just and informed decisions about everyday life issues.
We cover a variety of issues in the economy from different industries – tourism, transport, public and private sector developments, cost and standard of living, investment, trade (imports and exports), agriculture, financial institutions, housing and construction, as well as manufacturing issues.
All these are covered and given equal prominence in our newspaper and we try as best as possible to paint a true and accurate picture of what’s happening with each industry and the multiple effect or implication on the average Jane and Joe.
Our writing style and understanding of each issue or industry is an integral part of being a business or economic reporter/journalist, especially when our target audience is not just the everyday reader, but those in the business industry, learned members of the public and investors (since we also have an online medium for potential investors and interested readers abroad).
Business or economic reporting is not an isolated section of the paper and it does have a link with social and other development issues in the community – for instance, if a business report covers an increase in the cost of living, or an increase in the price of certain foods, it would affect the way people live their lives. Those who can afford it would have to fork out more towards daily expenses, and those who would not be able to afford it would probably struggle or turn to social troubles like crime to keep up with the changes in lifestyle.
If business reports are based on the development of a new hotel, it would leave a trickle effect – it could increase investor confidence, boost economic growth, provide employment for nearby villagers, increase standard of living (where people would earn a living and be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle) and decrease social issues like unemployment and poverty.
How these issues are reported or presented is a major challenge for business journalists, particularly at our newspaper. Proper training or upskilling of journalists on how to relay these issues to the public is one area that needs attention. Other key issues affecting journalism (for business or economic reporting) includes:
- Managerial influence on some business reports – for instance when there is conflict of interest between media owners and businesses under the spotlight or scrutiny.
- Lack of understanding of development issues or the operations of certain industries – for instance trying to interpret press releases from stock brokers, investors, taxation or annual reports from public and private companies.
- Hindrance getting information that could be in the interest of the public, particularly with private companies – for instance, if a private business is providing consumers with bad goods that’s life-threatening and refuse to reveal details of their operations, or answer queries relating to the issue, it would require journalists to think outside the box, and find other ‘ethical’ means and ways to obtain the information without breaking any laws or crossing ethical boundaries.
- Media laws that could hinder what stories to cover – for eg, Media Decree that could stipulate reporting on stories of interest to the public as long as it doesn’t incite instability or civil unrest.
- Advertising influence – for eg, when advertisers push for business coverage of events by clients that do not necessarily have that ‘news’ aspect.
- Change in technology and demand for information through new media.
In recent times, international business dealings have impacted the way our country has progressed over the years – for instance, the Global Financial Crisis, investor confidence and interests fluctuated, affecting other industries like tourism and financial institutions. Issues like stock exchange developments or fluctuating prices of fuel also have a direct impact on livelihoods in Fiji.
It’s not just international factors that affect business reports but political and social problems or challenges often dictate business angles journalists work on. For instance Fiji’s political history has seen the introduction of certain policies and laws that restrict the process of collecting accurate, fair and balanced information.
Looking ahead, I think with the latest innovations and changes in technology, online media would play a very critical role in obtaining information on what’s happening with the rest of the world. Though at our newspaper, access to new media like social networks often makes adapting to these changes in technology challenging.
Meanwhile, the digital age is sometimes not accessible by everyone in the country so keeping that link or relationship with the wider world through technological advances is very important in disseminating information about economic or business issues that relate to the livelihoods of people in the Pacific.
In terms of its impact on contemporary journalism, I think the way news, features or opinions are reported are based in a way on the challenges faced in this day and age. Personally, I think the onus is on journalists to be aware of their role, responsibilities and expectations in society.