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Congratulations On Your New Career

by John on 03/16/2012

You’re a journalist now. What? You don’t want to be a newsperson? Well, I never wanted to be a travel agent, but guess who books my airline flights now?

You’re a journalist — whether you like it or not.

You have all the mechanical tools you need: a smart-phone with camera; a computer with editing software, and a blog or any social networking platform you’re on.

At Real TV, the opening narration to the show was: “Cameras are everywhere.” That was in the late 1990s. The technology has only improved. And with those tools, the news is now coming to you.

In my first book, I wrote about the horrible tsunami that hit Indonesia:

Look at the deadly tsunami in South Asia on December 26, 2004. Who were the first journalists on the scene? Look at the first moments of video contained in the network news stories. The video is camcorder video shot by tourists who survived. The tourists and the locals were the first reporters on the scene. They had the story long before a network news anchor had even booked his flight. Plus, those videos were real and showed you the true horror. I always knew what a tsunami was: a tidal wave caused by an earthquake or volcano under the sea. But I never appreciated its ferocity until I saw the home videos of it.

The volume of incidents has only grown where everyday people were the first reporters on scene. Think of the tsunami in Japan of March, 2011. How about the video smuggled out of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and the other countries in the Arab Spring?

But you also have the ability to publish around the world and influence people. You could take someone’s email and re-send it to your mailing list, or re-tweet it, or post it to Facebook. It’s so easy now. But maybe it’s too easy.

See, as a journalist, you also have responsibilities. And that includes having a journalist’s mentality. I am not saying journalists are smarter. We’re not. We don’t practice rocket science or brain surgery. But we think in a different way. There have been volumes written on this, but let me boil it down.

We’re like the annoying kid who keeps asking, “Why?” The only difference is we’re looking for real answers. I call these questions filters. And before you post anything you need to ask these questions; questions you would ask at a car dealership:

Is this truthful or trying to uncover the whole truth?

What is really happening here? Am I being deceived?

What is the motivation of the person who is presenting this?

If you can’t answer these questions, then you don’t “publish” it to anyone.

Think about this when you get that blast email from someone. I call many of these emails “Weapons of Mass Distortion”. Raise those three questions before you hit “Reply All.”

We will denounce many of them here. In fact, I will post about a friend who denounced one the right way.

But first, in the comments section, give me some of your experiences where you stumbled upon news and you covered it and how you did it.

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