Are you a journalist without any New Year’s resolutions?
Well, if you would like a back-to-basics approach this year, the good folks behind the Canadian Journalism Project (CJP) have come up with a short list of challenges that might interest you.
The list, published on J-Source.ca, is deceptively simple. As they note, it “requires perseverance, integrity and commitment year round.” Each of the five goals is also a link to a relevant article that may serve as a source of inspiration.
- I will admit to my mistakes
- I will promote greater public accountability
- I will not plagiarize
- I will strive for accuracy
- I will defend press freedom
My favourite article is attached to goal #4. It’s called “Teaching accuracy takes more than punishing mistakes.” Here’s an excerpt:
Perhaps this sounds a bit confusing: fear is good, but also bad; mistakes are bad, but also instructive. That’s exactly the point. Teaching accuracy is a multi-faceted process. It’s complicated, and in truth it never really ends. You can’t learn accuracy the way you learn to add and subtract. It’s a process and a combination of learned behaviours, not a matter of memorization or motor memory.
And speaking of resolutions, J-Sources has committed to regularly updating their ethics section this year, which will help guide journalists long after the New Year zeal has worn off.
Meantime, the Toronto Star’s Sarah Millar has posted her own 5-goal list. She has explained each challenge in tight little paragraphs, which I recommend you read in full on the Star’s intern blog. Here are the basic points:
1. You are what you tweet
2. I will spell check before I post
3. I will talk to real people
4. I will find something to do that’s not work
5. I will join the conversation
Maybe I secretly love the number four but Sarah’s fourth point is my favourite on her list. I’ll quote it below, but I should quickly mention that I received similar advice from the Star‘s Roger Gillespie. When I asked him to name an important quality in interns, he said:
“We want journalists who have lives,” and added that he doesn’t like seeing young people camp out at their desks. I agree with him. If all we can do is talk shop, that’s as sad as it is boring.
Sarah’s topical point:
It’s not just journalists bringing their work home with them, people in every profession are finding it hard to leave it behind. A New York Times article from last August said multitasking is causing more journalists to burn out younger than ever before. So in 2011, turn off the BlackBerry and do something outside of the office. It could be joining a sports league, or starting a class in a subject that interests you. Whatever it is, it’s three hours a week that you can make just yours. Three hours where you aren’t on your email and on call. You’ll be a better journalist if you’re refreshed.
So, even though these resolutions may seem very basic, that also means they’re realistic. (Hooray!)
If you’re a journalist, try them out. If you’re a reader, expect no less of your journalists.