Sunday, December 17, 2017

New book stresses importance of journalism

March 2, 2016 by Greg Pratt, managing editor

That’s Why I’m a Journalist is a collection of first-hand accounts from Canadian reporters talking about some of their most memorable experiences; the result is a, mainly, compelling and fascinating read.

The stories all focus on events that made the journalists in question have moments where they realized that their job matters. Maybe I’m a bit biased, as it’s my job too, but I agree with these people. Their job does matter, and this book is a great look at why during a time when we need reminding the most. Given the overwhelming amount of “journalism” found online and the discouraging lack of journalism without snarky quotes placed around the descriptor, it’s vital to remember why real reporting matters. And those reminders are all over That’s Why I’m a Journalist.

Take, for example, this line from Kevin Tibbles’ account of an airplane crashing into the water next to a tiny Nova Scotia village: “On this day,” Tibbles remembers, “a fisherman told me he had found a child in the water and I found it almost unbearable.” No amount of celebrity gossip or one-sided opinion masquerading as news will hit the way memories like that do, and this book is full of them.

Now, I mentioned it was mainly a compelling and fascinating read; where the book falters is in its format. It simply introduces the journalist and then quotes them, oral-history style, for a few pages, then goes on to the next journalist. Unfortunately, while a book like this should be written excellently to show the world that journalism still matters, what ends up happening with any oral history is that it comes across as sub-par writing (even the best journalists talk like the most relaxed town drunk sometimes). I would have loved to have seen Mark Bulgutch put this together as a narrative, intertwining his own words with those of the journalists.

Plus, this pains me to say, but a couple of the journalists don’t do us any favours as far as helping the public’s opinion of us goes; when one admits she casually refers to an interview where the subject cries as a good one, I almost shed tears myself, and they weren’t tears of joy.

Even though the format makes reading it sometimes difficult, the fact of the matter is this: journalism, real journalism, is a vital, important, and impactful job in any society, and Bulgutch has done an admirable job here in bringing that point to the public.

This book is a great reminder that journalism can create change and can impact lives in unexpected ways, for the interviewer, the interviewee, and those watching, reading, or listening to the story.

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