Through two lectures at Harvard Extension, we discussed the differences between: advocate, activist and journalist. In this piece, will summarize the different ideas we discussed. The main question was: “Should a journalist be an advocate or activist?”
The difference between the advocate and activist; the advocate is helping someone or a group or a cause by written word or orally. While the activist, is the one on the ground, rallying and organizing people to make the change.
The journalist, should be neutral, he has to be objective and never state his own thoughts or push them in his pieces. He should be fair and report the different opposing parties over the conflict and not sticking to one side only.
The journalist should neither be an activist nor advocate. Most of us became skeptical about this point; journalism is the Fourth State and should inform the public. If a journalist is enthusiastic about a certain cause, he should not be an advocate for it but on best cases, report people who have his same views and values.
There are gray areas, like freedom of speech. Dan Gillmor wrote: “When it comes to free speech, journalists should be activists.” The main goal from freedom of speech is restraining the government from corruption, it acts like the watchdog.
The journalist can be an activist for a certain cause, hence, he should not report about it. He can have several hats as activist, author or journalist. But during the reporting, the journalist has to remind himself to stay objective and report what the sources are saying even if he personally has opposing point of view.
Moreover, according to these criteria, most of the media outlets right now are not objective. They drive the public’s opinion according to their agendas. Fair and objective journalist should not have any agenda.
Image source: http://www.aljazeera.com/mritems/Images/2011/1/27/2011127142051918140_20.jpg