Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why a Journalist?

Why a Journalist?

A number of years ago I decided to enter the noble field of journalism. I was decidedly much younger and full of hope and idealism. I am still carry a lot of idealism, at least my wife says I do, but my hope in humanity has somewhat waned. Whether it is the sum result of wisdom and experience or age, the record has yet to be written. But below is an article that I wrote as I was about to embark on the field of journalism. In the next post, I shall give you more details on when it was written and what has transpired since that time.

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience above all liberties.
—John Milton, Aeropagitica [1644]

The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights [1776]

A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny.
Winston Churchill

Freedom of the press is perhaps the freedom that has suffered the most from a gradual degradation of the idea of liberty.
Albert Camus, Resistance Rebellion, and Death [1960]

The above epigrams from John Milton, George Mason, Winston Churchill and Albert Camus—four people from different nations and living in different times, and certainly of differing world views—speak, however, a common language when it comes to the freedom to speak without fear. They agree in spirit to the fundamental need of maintaining free press in a democratic society.

I find myself, somewhat, in the company of these illustrious thinkers of the past, chiefly because I share their passions and convictions on freedom. They spoke and wrote what they truly believed without fearing reprisals. This right is essential for freedom. Coupled with freedom of conscience is the necessity that the weak and disenfranchised in a free and democratic society have a voice—not only in spirit but in reality.

Encapsulated within this thought is the raison d’être of why I desire to become a working print journalist. Perhaps, because I am older than most of my undergraduate classmates, I appreciate the necessity for good journalists in the marketplace to act as a deterrent against, for example, corporate and government abuses,

Almost three years ago, at age 34, after working for almost 10 years in the aerospace sector, I left a secure position in technical sales and marketing. The reasons are simple enough; I desired to pursue a career in journalism.

Why would you do that? is the question I have often faced in the last few years. A valid question that deserves an equally thoughtful response. The field of journalism, a vocation so to speak, offers the nexus of two loves: the written word and human interest. There is a beauty in language, and, particularly, in the written word. As William Strunk and E.B. White emphasize in The Elements of Style, language is “a living stream, shifting, changing, receiving new strength from a thousand tributaries.”

Language is alive. A good writer can have a positive influence on society as it evolves and takes shape around you. As a journalist, I hope to display integrity, honesty, credibility, and courage to construct and write fair and balanced stories, always endeavouring to accurately portray what was said—both explicitly and implicitly.

People and their lives are what make a story vibrate and sing, like a musical sonata that resonates within us after a well-played concert. As a journalist, I aspire to compose such kind of melodies. The hope; that readers not only appreciate a piece of well-written prose, but also experience an understanding, an empathy of the people featured. In most cases they are ordinary people like you and I. Such is the cornerstone of storytelling and fine journalism.

Thus, while in school, I hope to learn the skills necessary to become a good journalist, and then to apply these in the working world.

And as I do, I carry with me the words of Milton, Mason, Churchill and Camus, bearing in mind the struggles of those individuals who historically fought for press freedom and who paid a price to benefit society. I hope that I will be an honourable member of such a profession.

—Perry Joshua Greenbaum

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