What Makes a Good Journalist?

I’ve been mulling over this one for a while. What makes a good journalist? Be it print or broadcast, what is the key to being good at it? Is it having an opinion and being able to express it clearly? Or is it presenting the facts and letting the reader or listener make up their own minds?

For example, every time you read a music review, you’re reading someone’s opinion of a gig. Now, they could be the one person who thought it was rubbish or they could have been sent along to review the gig, because it’s their job to do so, but they might have no idea of the band on the night, their history, or any of their songs. How can they then give a qualified review? Time and time again I read gig reviews by people who have limited knowledge of a band on the night. Sometimes the reviews are good, sometimes they are not so good. Anyone who is a Metallica fan will know that every time they play “One”, there are going to be fireworks before it. I have read reviews of Metallica gigs where the journalist in question seemed to be in awe or surprised at the fireworks. This to me, is a waste of a review. Why not send a fan of Metallica or someone who knows their live routine to review the gig? That way they can compare it to previous gigs, or previous set lists. I think it gives a more accurate view of the gig. I once read a review of a John Butler gig in The Olympia in Dublin. It was quite a passive review. The journalist in question barely had a clue who John was, and I thought the review was way different to how most people who were at the gig actually thought it was like.

It’s the same with album reviews. A big long article on how good or bad an album is. It doesn’t matter. Just listen to it yourselves and make up your own minds. It’s just one person’s opinion.  Are they a fan? Are they basing it on previous albums by the same band? If I review a One Direction album, before I press play, I’m going to think it’s rubbish. How can I give an accurate review of their album for fans of the band? This is my main problem with a lot of music journalism. But in reality, music doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I often wonder what is the point of music journalists. Are they same as children’s tv critics? Or should they be the same as them! It’s only a bloody gig. It’s only a bloody album. There are more important and relevant things to report to the public, such as social injustice, or government cover ups etc etc!

Take Syria. It would appear that the media is being used as a propaganda tool. So this leads me to biased media outlets, or having an opinion on something when you should be presenting the facts. Obviously different media outlets take a particular slant on articles and how they present them. For example, The Guardian and The Daily Mail would be polar opposites. But why do they do this in the first place? if you are a socialist, and you are writing an article on the state of hospitals in Ireland, should you just present the facts, or should you word your article in a way that would support socialist thinking or socialist solutions to hospital problems. Or should you just present the facts, not give any opinion, and let the reader make up their own mind? When should a journalist hold back a story, and deem it in the greater interest not to publish it? Should a journalist essentially be a “whistle blower”?

What about sports journalists? You review a game. Team A were good, scored twice and won. Fact. You can’t argue with the facts of this. Team A were good, therefore they won. Is it as black and white as that?

I could go on and on. I haven’t even really touched on media bias and how that comes to be. But on a basic level, what makes a good journalist apart from a way with words?

EDIT: I’ll revisit this post again in a year or so and come up with a completely different answer!


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