Famed American journalist Hunter S. Thompson spent most of his professional career searching for truth and “the American Dream” and it was his conclusion that, “Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism”.
Some reporters today are still attempting to uphold the code of professional journalists, “to seek the truth and report it in with fairness, honesty and compassion to those who may be affected by it.”
But the line between journalism and sensationalism is becoming unclear.
In December it was reported that the Tiger Woods scandal was the longest running front page story in the New York Post with 20 consecutive days; beating out the 9/11 attacks with only 19 straight days http://blogs.suntimes.com.
Now with print journalism fading into the background to make way for new Web media many fear that the art of journalism will be lost in the process.
“Journalism as an art has taken major steps backwards,” said communication professor Charlie Crixell, who is also an assistant sports editor for the Houston Chronicle. “The advent of the new social media outlets such as TMZ and Twitter has lowered the standards of what is considered good journalism.”
In today’s society a new trend is emerging where people are more concerned with who leaks the story first instead of who reported it best.
“Sometimes the most accessible news is not necessarily the best news, like headlines on popular social-networking sites or buzzed news,” photography senior Stephanie Gobea said. “ But, if you hunt for local and national newswires with older credentials, the journalism is a bit more intriguing and weighted versus some superficial non-sense that passes through the ‘super grapevine’.”
At UH, journalism is held up to a higher standard of news ethics and passes on the creed of good reporting over fast reporting.
This is being done by bringing in professors who aren’t just knowledgeable in the concentration but also work in the field. Crixell and fellow journalism professor David McHam both received Master’s degrees from Columbia University and professor Michael Berryhill has been published in periodicals such as The New York Times and Vogue.
“UH students have the distinct advantage of learning not just what we do and how we do it, but also what the world is like on a day to day scale,” Crixell said.
UH journalism students also have the opportunity to write for The Daily Cougar, which has been around for 75 years.
UH alumnus Tony Hernandez said that if it weren’t for the experience he learned working at the Cougar and the references he received from Berryhill and McHam, he would not have landed his first job out of college. Hernandez, who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism in 2008, is now the managing editor at The Southwest Times in Liberal, Kan.
The School of Communication hails alum such as Jack Valenti, creator of the motion picture ratings system, famed sports announcer Dan Cook and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Andrees Latif.
Crixell said it is important for journalism students now days to be versatile.
“Learn how to write, to take photos and how to deliver Web content,” he said. “With the instability of the business; versatility is invaluable.”