Journalists striking over low pay in Belgium

Recently in my Media Criticism class, we have been talking about the quality of present-day journalists and whether or not they deserve a decent salary.  In class, we critiqued a presentation that American writer and scholar, Robert Picard, made at Oxford University in 2009.

In the presentation, Picard expresses his personal views regarding why journalists should not have high salaries. He explains why he thinks the increasing technology is altering the  professionalism of the journalistic field.  Although Picard does have some good points regarding the necessary skills to be a journalist, he does not stress the importance of the power writers have over society, and why they should be rewarded for their responsibilities.

Picard argues that the value of the creation of journalism has decreased steadily over this past century.  In the past, a journalist would have to produce an article the hard way, which included physically going out to the streets, questioning, reporting, taking pictures, shooting video, etc.  Presently, a writer can create a story right from his home, due to the intelligence of the internet and other means of technology.  When a writer is working on an article, there are bound to be multiple stories and sources related to what he/she is writing about.  “The Internet and various social networking applications are providing means for individuals to create and convey information on their own”(4).  Therefore, a journalist does not always have to go out and physically produce the information him/herself.  Picard also stated that, “Software is incorporating essential linguistic skills (spelling, grammar, and translation), audio and video production skills, and photography and graphics skills”(4).  In other words,  it is harder to find a writer’s writing weaknesses with the various spelling and grammar checking devices on a computer.  Also, as for pictures and videos, there are so many available forms of multimedia on the web, that someone may use another’s work, as long as there are no copyrights.  Since there is not nearly as much hard work that goes into journalism these days, Picard has a point as to why journalists do not deserve high pay.

One thing that Picard mentions, is the power that journalists have over society.  He said, “Functional benefits include providing information that helps individuals and society understand their place in the world, conveying ideas that help or create ease in life, and supplying diversion and entertainment”(2).  Despite mentioning this, he does not believe this is a reason that journalists should receive higher pay.  He says that their power is decreasing over society compared to the past, therefore they do not deserve high pay.  I beg to differ with this rational because media is still the leading role of influence in this country.  I think the news is still just as powerful, and people pay attention to the advice journalists give.  For example, if a popular journalist proclaims that a study has shown that apples increase the likelihood of developing colon cancer, I guarentee people would pay attention and be more cautious in regards to eating apples.  That being said, power is a very important role in society, and generally deserves high pay.  Sure, journalists may not be creating something original, but they have the job of relaying information to the public.

As said in “Spiderman”, with great power comes great responsibility, and since journalists have such a great responsibility, they should be rewarded for it.

Picard had several good points in his presentation, especially regarding the amount of work journalists have to put into their stories compared to the past.  However, in a society where power pays, I believe that journalists should receive a higher salary.  Although they may not have the skills and knowledge that other high-paying jobs require (such as doctors, lawyers, etc), journalists still hold one of the highest responsibilities in society, and they should be recognized with that and should therefore be paid a higher wage.