MISSOULA - Being a journalist these days takes thicker skin than ever before, especially with the reach of social media and the echo of "fake news."
There are news sites that are reputable and others that aren’t and that muddies the water even more not only for the consumer but for the reporter.
MTN News recently met two students at the University of Montana who say they’re willing and ready to take on the new judgment that comes with journalism.
“I wanted to be a reporter since I was really young watching the nightly news every evening and that didn’t change even though the circumstances got more difficult through the years,” said UM journalism student Austin Amestoy.
Amestoy is a senior who writes for the student newspaper the Kaimin with hopes of finding a TV reporting job when he graduates. He says his professors have trained him well about truth in reporting.
“I think the most important thing to the job is more transparency and a lot of trust,” Amestoy observed. “That will come if we’re transparent with our processes and methodologies. And that’s something that I've been really well equipped to do at UM and what I want to bring to the job when I graduate. Not ready to give up on journalism yet. “
The young reporters already experience the immediate feedback on a news story via social media.
Constructive criticism or questions are good but personal attacks are not. Kaimin Editor-in-Chief Addie Slanger recounted one incident that has stayed with her.
“I can’t remember the story I was writing at the time, but someone on Twitter took a picture of my profile picture — a screenshot of it — and underneath the article that I posted said 'this is the journalist' so, we have to take it with a grain of salt or something. So, simply just because I was a girl laughing in her profile picture I was getting some judgment from the reader. And I think it’s simultaneously good to get used to that now. But it was a bit of a learning curve.” - Montana Kaimin Editor-in-Chief Addie Slanger
So how do you stand your ground? You do it with diligence and honesty.
“We've talked about it in our media ethics class about these instances where a publication got it horribly wrong and often in their effort to save face, they dig themselves a deeper hole,” Amestoy said.
The best thing any publication can do if they got the facts wrong in a report is to come out and be very specific as to what they got wrong and the failures internally that let to that happening and need to promise to do better in the future and show the action items to fix the problem.
“For me, I just focus on knowing that my copy is clean, and facts are straight, and I've taken as much time as I can to get the story right,” Slanger explained. “So, when you can rest on your assurances that this is all correct, that’s all you can do. "
Most journalists are in the profession because they are passionate about it. The young journalists we talked with will enter the job market prepared for the scrutiny, the long hours, and the pay. But, they’re ready for that challenge. “
“I'm ready to take it on. I think [it’s] one of the oldest ways that we’ve really latched on to for communicating. What’s important is telling stories and if we lose the people who do that -- if we lose the people who put in the time and effort to tell those stories truthfully and accurately -- we lose a lot of important things. We risk losing our humanity and risk losing our humanity and things like democracy.” - UM journalism student Austin Amestoy