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03 June, 2017


A Facebook friend of long standing, and I, have been exchanging thoughts on what constitutes good journalism.

Right off the bat, I should clarify that I am an old-school journalist. Printer's ink runs through my veins. I came by my training the hard way, with the seat of my pants firmly planted in front of an old Underwood typewriter on a battle-scarred, institutional gray metal desk occupied by countless others before me -- rewrite after rewrite, learning from my errors which were plenty and developing a thick skin as a defense mechanism against an editor's sharp barbs and critiques.

My bible was always the Canadian Press Style Guide -- authoritative, principled, sometimes capricious, a mixture of sombre injunctions and practical rules. My friend, oddly enough, suggests that "journalists do not make the rules".  Of course they don't, but they sure as hell are required to live by them; otherwise risking losing their jobs. The fundamentals of good journalism are constant -- a sharp eye, an inquiring mind, a passion for accurate information and appropriate words...and working long hours any time of the day or night.

Now here's where the general perception of journalism goes a bit awry. Someone has said that the difference between a journalist and a reporter is a little like the difference between a police officer and a homicide detective; the second is just a specific instance of the first. While there are many different kinds of careers in journalism, a reporter's job covers a narrower scope and requires a specific skill set.

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