Immensely important, essentially so. As in, the I-can’t-stress-how-important-it-is kind of important. As Dr. Gade mentioned in lecture, the frameworks for our professional values begin here in college, in classes like this one that is teaching how to think about journalism, not just how to do it.
It can boil down to this: for journalism majors, now is the time when we decide how we will view the professional world of our trade before we enter it. Not only do we determine our professional values, but we find out what we believe to be newsworthy. We find out what we think is news, whether it be conflict, impact, proximity, celebrity, or any of the other traditional factors (Weaver, 153). Because ultimately our conceptions of newsworthiness depends on who we are as journalists (Weaver, 154). Consequently, in order to find out who we are as journalists, we must have a firm grasp on professional values.
We have a chance to do that now, especially those of us who are involved in Student Media. There we get hands-on practical experience, but we are also presented with the challenge of discovering our professional values in the midst of a hectic, 24-hour work week that just begs us to become complacent, not even considering what our values are, just going day-by-day.
The challenge presents itself in one of the basic forms of values: autonomy. Yes, when it comes to me and the average blogger who considers him or herself a journalist, there is the distinct difference in that my student ID will get me into the Daily newsroom and there’s won’t, but the people of the world don’t see that. It’s easy to see the difference from a journalist’s point of view, but not everyone has been trained so. When you walk around the newsroom whether you work for the Oklahoma Daily or OU Nightly or OUDaily.com, it’s easy to see the professionalism of the organized body of the newsroom. But the bottom line is this is still a university setting, which means there are many officials on this campus who will not speak to us if our story could paint them in a negative light, making it so we have to play ball with them in order to get a quote, which is not having autonomy at all (Beam, 226). How can we have any sort of latitude or control in what we want covered, essential to being a professional as Beam, Weaver, and Brownlee write, if we allow the content to be dictated by the source (Beam, 230)? That would make us no different from the citizen journalist with no perception of seeking the whole truth, who just clicks, uploads, and is gone. This leads us to determine what is more important to us as student journalists: always printing praise of the powers-that-be or not backing down and seeking the truth for our readers/viewers regardless of the difficulty. Easier said than done I know, but this is a great indicator of how we employ professional values in our craft.
As student journalists we have plenty of other opportunities to develop professional values. There are many student organizations that we can become involved in, inserting ourselves in a professional culture where our values can be shared by others and we can become socialized into our occupations (Beam, 227). We can become members of the Society of Professional Journalists, or the Oklahoma College Broadcasters, just to name a few. Joining these groups is one of the hallmarks of our profession, that’s right I said profession. They are associations where we can communicate our interests politically and socially, potentially shaping our own behaviors to be more focused on our own professional values (Beam, 228). More ways for us to be engaged in our profession can allow us more ways to discover what our values are.
As student journalists, we have to make the effort to apply these and other professional values in our everyday lives as we go about our reporting. It’s true that anyone can be sat down and taught how to write, shoot, edit, and upload news content, but what separates us as journalists are these values. Not everyone can be a professional journalist when these values, responsibilities, and obligations are added to the job. Most importantly, down the road in our careers, we will be forced to make the tough choices when it comes to our reporting. It could be where we choose to work or deciding whether or not to run a story, which could be in conflict with any number of factors. When that time comes, when the chips are down, our own journalistic professional values will aid us in those decisions, and ultimately dictate who we are as reporters.