Is it useful to study journalists?  

Is it? Because I honestly don’t know anymore.

Journalists study the world and try to present a comprehensible account of it to their viewers and/or readers. Scholars study journalists, and I’m not sure if I understand their purpose. They don’t seem to have this watchdog-like vigilant aspirations journalist have. In my eyes, most academic work on journalists seems a bit platonic. Authors study various types of journalists and journalism, and try to abstract some sort of essence from their findings.

We, starting journalists, sometimes do the same thing. Whenever we have a discussion, either on a friendly basis or during a JPS-lecture (okay, mainly during JPS-lectures) we look at something like Geenstijl or Zondag met Lubach or Ismail Ilgün and ask ourselves: is this journalism? How ‘journalism’ is this? In the same way a platonic would ask about a horse in how far it represents the true ideal of a horse, as it only exists in the transcendental world of ideas.

Not being a platonic myself, I notice myself finding it harder and harder to reflect upon my future profession in university. During my philosophy bachelor studies, I sometimes found myself irritated by the amount of academic uselessness found in endless discussions on ‘whether or not we can be sure the world exists’. Starting my masters, I really looked forward to what would be our only academic course to keep the scale even, and to keep reflecting on journalism on a more scholarly level, apart from our practical exercises. Now, nearly three months later, I find myself wondering what’s the point of analysing seems already self-evident to us: what journalism is.

Am I slowly attaining the ‘hbo-mindset’? Or am I simply bored to death after three years of academic discussion, while discovering that journalistic research and writing seems more exciting and likely to have an actual effect on society than academic research does?

Excuse me for this arrogant attitude towards scholars – I’m exaggerating a bit to sketch and better understand my own conflicted mind. And excuse my not so literary-driven blogpost (while at the same time having written a literary-driven blogpost would have quite defeated the purpose and the nature of my doubts). I think I’m just mainly wondering about two things and wanted to ask you how you feel about them.

1. Do you, being a former student of journalism, sometimes get this fuzzy feeling just as well? Or do you feel else / the contrary?

2. Is it even useful to study journalists, and why?

Maarten van Gestel


McQuail, Denis. “What is Journalism? How is it Linked to Society?” Journalism and Society. London: Sage, 2005. 1-26. Print.

Schudson, Michael & Andersen, Chris. “Objectivity, Professionalism, and Truth Seeking in Journalism”, in K. Wahl-Jorgensen & T. Hanitzsch (ed.), The Handbook of Journalism Studies. New York: Routledge, 2009. 88-101. Print.

Leave a Reply