I get asked this question a whole lot. A lot of the expected answers are, deadlines, right? Isn’t it hard managing a staff? What about thinking of stories to write?
My answers usually go like this: “No, deadlines aren’t too hard for me. Managing a staff isn’t as difficult as you might think. Thinking of stories is challenging, of course, but I do what I can to not be overwhelmed.”
And so they’ll ask me a second time what the hardest part about being a journalist is.
By far, the hardest part about being a journalist is that I can’t be an activist. Prior to working in journalism, my opinions on social issues were broadcasted on all my social media. I was an activist before I was a journalist.
Not being able to participate in marches and protests and not being able to advocate for what I believe in is extremely difficult for someone whose job is to inform the public about news, without having a biased opinion.
I would be a liar if I told you that I had no opinion over the Trump administration’s moves since Trump was elected.
I would be a liar if I told you that I didn’t want to take a ribbon to support the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school victims during the walkout on March 13.
And I would definitely be a liar if I told you that there was never a time I didn’t want to insert my opinionated statements in a story.
This is that hardest part about being a journalist — not being able to voice my concerns as a woman of color in a patriarchal society. But journalists have a different job that requires us to report on events.
There is power in the stories we write and in the pictures we take. We have an ethical and professional responsibility to pursue the truth about issues and events, then strive to report that truth as fairly and accurately as possible.
There is a line that I can’t cross as a journalist and yes, it’s challenging for me to not voice my opinions. We are storytellers, we do our job to inform, and we must do both of these things the correct way.
The first rule of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is this, “Seek truth and report it. Journalists should be honest, fair, and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”
As journalists, we must be truth tellers. We must report fairly on both sides of a story and toss out any implications of false moral equivalence. But this doesn’t mean that just because we don’t classify ourselves as activists that we are not useful.
The media is the fourth estate. Our duty is to serve humanity as citizens of the world through truth-telling. Our jobs are burdensome when we report and photograph human rights issues like the Bosnian War due to journalism ethics. But again, journalists are storytellers and the way we do our jobs is different than that of an activist.
This doesn’t mean that my heart isn’t with the countless social activists out there who fight for the oppressed. It just means that at the end of the day, my head and my heart can’t always be put on the same playing field. Journalists serve the people by seeking the truth and reporting it. We should hand megaphones to the oppressed and marginalized and we must allow people to share their stories without our own opinions on the matter.
It’s up to us to truly understand what it means to be a journalist, to remember exactly why we chose to take on a difficult role and grasp what our true duty to this world is.