[PDF Notes] What a Journalist Should Study?

The education of a journalist requires, as its basis, a sound foundation of general knowledge and commonsense.

He is first of all the guardian of the reputation of his newspaper, and he has a responsibility which is far above simply taking for granted every statement which is made to him and which he is called upon to report.

He is largely a corrector of the mistakes in matters of fact and the accidental slips in matters of taste and propriety of his fellowmen. All the copy he writes must pass the test of his own good sense, and he should pass nothing through to the sub-editors, except under circumstances of great stress, until he has read it carefully through and is sure of its accuracy. Even the best-known public men and women are liable to error.

As far as is possible, dates, quotations, and historical allusions should be verified, as too much care cannot be taken to ensure accuracy in what may appear to be matters of small detail.

An observant eye and a questioning mind are a journalist’s greatest assets; and they should be used just as much to prevent perpetuation of the errors of other people as to ensure the accuracy of his own. He should not leave to the sub-editor’s judgement the unforgiving record of the printed page, as a sub-editor sometimes unwittingly passes an error that the reporter committed it in the first place. “Every reporter is his own sub-editor” is a golden rule for the young journalist to bear in mind.

The personal care in the preparation of copy which it teaches is not only a sure safeguard against serious a error but an invaluable preparation for actual sub-editorial responsibility and for higher executive duties.

History should be studied from the standpoint of the origin and development of political ideas and national and social movements rather than from what of purely historical detail. Although no period should be deliberately neglected, it can be taken for granted in a gene­ral way that so far as political evolution and social development in our country are concerned, things did begin to happen in an impor­tant way since independence and from thence onward there is plenty to occupy and to interest the student of history, of whatever professional bent he may be.

To the journalist history has three aspects which are more important than the others: political, industrial and sociological, and they should absorb most of his attention in this sphere of study.

Sociology has become an essential part of politics today, and nearly all modern industrial legislation is based on an instinct for social betterment, so that this aspect of historical study has a special importance.

The study of personality, too, is not unimportant in its histori­cal relationships, particularly in the effect great men and women of all times have had in shaping the destinies of nations.

Modern World History claims careful attention-especially the territorial and political changes brought about by the world wars and because of the increasing importance of international relationships, the effects of which often assume the importance of big “news”.

India is not so insular as she used to be, and the fusion of her news interest with those of the foreign countries which is gradually taking place, makes it necessary that there should be not only some understanding of the problems which are now common to many nations but that there should be some acquaintance with those outstanding personages in all countries who are attempting to solve them.

A large proportion of national questions today have an international aspect, and it is just as important that this should be understood as the purely domestic application.

Journalistic Resourcefulness

One of the first things a young journalist has to learn is how to use reference books and similar sources of information.

He has to learn to look not only in the more obvious directions for guidance on points of everyday perplexity, but he must learn to appreciate also the value of out-of-the-way sources of reference-that while the Encyclopaedias of General Knowledge, Who’s Who and other Almancs have their plain uses, telephone directory is often the quickest means of checking the spelling of the names of important personages.

They are not only a fairly safe guide to the names of everyone of importance in big cities and to their street names also, but in addition they contain the full designation of practically every company and public organisation of any importance. Catalogues and similar commercial compilations often have considerable value as reference books and frequently give informa­tion which cannot be found elsewhere.

By making himself familiar with sources of this kind which are available when needed, the young journalist is able to create in his mind a useful sense of location in the search for information he is often called upon to make. The mind of the journalist need not be overburdened with facts so long as he knows where to obtain them when required.

Journalism attracts persons with all type of educational preparation. Basically, persons interested in this field should have clarity of thought, fluency in speech and control over a language, combined with a wide general knowledge of political matters, current affairs, sports, economic affairs, etc.

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