Journalist yesterday and today (history, problems, challenges )



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Many people associate the journalist in two ways. The first idea of ​​the profession of journalists is imposed on people by films and tv shows, where they can see a character created for the purpose of the plot. On the screen, we see elegantly dressed people, such as David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck, who are most often addicted to nicotine and alcohol. They usually wear a coat and hat. Despite personal problems, they have extensive contacts and access. Such a journalist is stubborn and persistent, like a detective, he deals with previously sniffed material. He enjoys great respect among ordinary people and spreads terror among the elite. He meets his co-workers only at morning meetings and spends most of his time outside the editorial office “on the topic”.

It is a vision repeated many times on the screen and is somewhat reminiscent of a journalist working for the media in their heyday. However, how we see editorial staff changes from year to year. From journalists of the so-called the yellow press, whose materials were filled with sensation and were supposed to fight for the public good, by muckcrackers who dealt with their business through newspapers and slandered others (now this is often referred to as the boulevard bloggers who slander other people’s names in their online diaries). Some journalists, especially tabloid writers, are also referred to as hyenas who will pounce on anything that can sell well.

Profession: War photojournalist

A similar discussion continues regarding war photojournalists. They are accused of separating themselves with the lens from the world around them and that instead of helping, they become indifferent waiting for “this shot”. In the same way, today’s citizen journalists who send photos to editorial offices of various tragic incidents and events are treated in the same way. There are even comic-book photos circulating on the Internet, which clearly present the problem, having to realize that most people in a situation where someone’s life is in danger prefer to take out the phone and shoot anything rather than help. It was similar with the war photojournalists, who somehow separated themselves with the lens from the events they documented. They themselves point out that the themes of war come back changed and experience each take deeply. The problem was highlighted after the publication on the cover of the New York Times on March 26, 1993, of a photo of a starving child who was sneaked behind by a vulture waiting for attack [2]. The author of the photo won a Pulitzer Prize, but the world reacted differently. On the one hand, people criticized the photojournalist for not helping the girl, taking care of her fate and giving her a better life. The publication also triggered massive financial aid from people who supported various humanitarian operations in the conflict area in South Africa where the photo was taken.

Czytelnicy gazet

Journalist – observer

A journalist should be an observer and should not interfere with events. A citizen journalist does it consciously and mainly to change what he does not like in his environment. The reporter observes suffering more often than other people, and after some time it may numb you, make you get used to it. Kevin Carter committed suicide the year after the photo was taken. In his farewell letter, he wrote: “I am haunted by vivid memories of murders, bodies, anger, pain, starving or injured children, impetuous madmen, executioners. The pain of life exceeds the joy inside which no longer exists. “[3]

Memories that come back in the form of flashes are a common problem in this profession. Krzysztof Miller, a war photographer recalls: “Scenes come back in dreams. There are two scenarios. Or you can’t fall asleep because you’re afraid you’re having a dream. Or you wake up because you had a dream. I had dreams that kept coming back. I dreamed that the sand was covering me alive. I’m choking spitting out some such plastic black sticks […]. The dead were coming back. ” [4]

A similar situation took place at the beginning of 2012, when one of the citizen journalists called the editorial office of Dziennik Wschodni (where I was working as an online editor), informing that a car hit a pedestrian near his work [5]. A man who posted a lot of stuff on our news portal offered to go and take pictures of the accident. However, when he saw the black bag in which the rescuers put the body of the fatally hit woman, he broke down. He called the editorial office and said in a shaky voice that he was removing all the photos he had taken, that he felt faint and felt like a heartless hyena.


Journalistic profession in the past

Journalists of traditional media, at the beginning of the 90s, did not have mobile phones, and very rarely a computer with Internet access was present. For this reason, the journalist was present wherever something important was happening. Obtaining material for an article was laborious and, above all, time-consuming. You had to visit each informant and personally talk to each person appearing in the text, or see with your own eyes certain problems, phenomena you wanted to write about. Thanks to this, such a person gained trust among their contacts and obtained better and better materials. A news journalist would often devote his full attention to one topic during the day, and an investigator would spend even months. After the morning college, the editor made appointments with interviewees, commissioned photos to photojournalists and went there to collect the necessary materials. After a few hours, he returned to the editorial office and began writing the article. The latter then went to the publisher, who edited it according to current needs and decided where to place in the newspaper. The next day, the finished product was delivered to the recipients.

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How is news created

In today’s world where speed matters, no one could afford such a delay. Most often, after finding the news, the editorial office has five minutes to publish the first, residual information on this topic. The next 5 minutes is the time to supplement the text with additional content and multimedia (map from the scene, similar articles on this topic). This is the moment when the publisher decides to continue working on the news. If necessary, he sends a photojournalist and a video reporter (if one works in the editorial office). After fifteen minutes, the first statements of the participants (witnesses, uniformed services) should appear in the article. After thirty minutes, the photo gallery and extensive information appear. After an hour, the text takes on its final shape, which will be used in the printed edition of the newspaper. In the meantime, another video will be included.

Współczesny dziennikarz powinien potrafić obsługiwać kamerę, aparat i laptop... jednocześnie. fot. Jakub Markiewicz
A modern journalist should be able to operate a camcorder, camera and laptop … all at the same time. The photo will not show what the movie is, and the movie itself will not be so eloquent. It also needs to be shown quickly. image credit: Jakub Markiewicz

Contemporary journalist, in addition to the rules of writing articles for newspapers, must increasingly learn technology, which until now was reserved only for specialists. Thanks to this, like a factory, they can produce more articles for which they will get money. Before going for the article, TV journalists must arrange a sound technician, camera operator, driver and, after the shooting phase, an editor. It is a whole team of good specialists who are expensive for the editorial office and extend the entire process of creating a given material. At a time when all companies are cutting costs, it is difficult to afford so many specialists. Therefore, modern internet editorial offices pay attention to the technical skills and ease of navigating the new technology of a given candidate at the beginning of recruitment. Tests checking the knowledge of the most important information about given categories of topics (such as health, police, politics, city, etc.) or the most important things about a given region, which were so far completed by job candidates, are a thing of the past. More and more often, questions are asked about the knowledge of social networking sites or the ability to position pages in search engines. The greater the candidate’s skills in, for example, photography or video editing, the better. In turn, immediately after employment, the training machine starts to transform a journalist into a human orchestra, who will be able to find himself (depending on the current needs of the employer) at every level in the editorial office.



Budget cuts, layoffs of journalists and publishers have resulted in a shortage of workers, while there is even more of it. The line between a journalist collecting elements for an article and the editor who prepared it for a publisher was blurred the earliest. Now, as part of their duties, journalists exchange roles with other people in the newsroom. In one day, an editor may be commissioned to prepare several articles for the front columns of the most important pages of the next print. Other times, he will order such texts himself, and then plan the appearance of the entire newspaper for the next day. And this is just a newspaper edition. There is also a new creation – an information portal that works completely different than a newspaper, but many newspaper editors still do not pay much attention to its good and careful management.

In the portals of newspapers, and in particular newspapers, speed is the most important thing. If an Internet user witnesses an event or simply hears something interesting from friends, he will want to expand his knowledge. In the event that he does not find answers to his questions on one’s media page, he will close it and look elsewhere. There are millions of websites on the web to browse and the casual reader will surely not come back. That is why internet editorial offices try to attract at all costs (very often in an unethical way, using spam or other tricks aimed at deceiving the Internet user) and keep a virtual visitor on their website. Editorial offices do not additionally employ Internet specialists, commonly referred to as search engine wizards, because they do not have the money for it. Often such responsibilities are entrusted to internet editors. There are not many vacancies in newsroom 2.0, but there are well-trained journalists. Depending on the needs, they must fulfill all these roles. They themselves often joke, saying that their skills are equal to elite military units – also, to have a job, they must know everything. A contemporary journalist, when going to the material, takes a camera or a phone with a camera. More and more often, such a person is equipped with a small camera with a microphone. After returning to the editorial office, in addition to the notes for the article for the newspaper and the portal, we also have photos and a video. Often such a recording is of much lower quality than in the case of materials produced by television, but in this case the entire staff of people is replaced by only one. Additionally, multimedia materials are the most desirable and most valued in all internet portals.

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Każdy człowiek ma do opowiedzenia ciekawą historię. Przez telefon ciężko to wyczuć. fot. Hubert Głos
Everyone has an interesting story to tell. It’s hard to feel it on the phone.
photo by Hubert Głos

The development of technology initiated another interesting phenomenon. Until now, the telephone has served the journalist as one of the working tools. After making an appointment, he would take his notebook and go to the interview. In newsroom 2.0, the journalist has no time to leave the editorial office and does not want to leave it too much. So far, one person has dealt with one or two thematic sections in which he specialized. Editor developed his contacts and wrote about the police, the court and uniformed services. Once a time the sections were changed to introduce freshness, a different point of view and to prevent corruption (when you work with someone for many years and suddenly it turns out that this person is to become a negative hero of our text, there may be a risk of manipulation). In modern editorial offices, after budget cuts, one journalist is required to follow up to a dozen thematic sections. As a result, both the speed and the quality of the finished information drop significantly. That is why many editors began to arrange topics on the phone. Rather than going to their destination and talking face-to-face, they prefer to ask about everything over the phone, often even asking for a picture of the problem they’re talking about. The very important contact with the reader and the closeness of the relationship with him has been marginalized. Until a few years ago, it was unthinkable that someone would write an article over the phone. Now, almost every one of them is created in this way. The phone has become the killer of classic journalists, but also their salvation. They no longer have to attend the biggest events to know or talk to witnesses about them. They can also write an article and move on to the next one much faster. As you know, each of them is extra money, for which a journalist finally writes.


[1] Movie Good Night, and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney

[2] MacLeod S., The Life and Death of Kevin Carter,

[3] Photographer Haunted by Horror of His Work,, 10.03.2012

[4] Ćwieluch J., Interview with Krzysztof Miller, war photographer,,2,, 10.03.2012

[5] Markiewicz J., Śmiertelny wypadek na ul. Skłodowskiej w Lublinie, 06.06.2012

Jakub Markiewicz
Jakub Markiewicz
Hi, I am the author of the blog and series of thematic portals since 2013. I have nearly 15 years of experience in working in the media, marketing, public relations and IT. If you are interested in cooperation, you would like me to write about something or test a product - let me know.
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