What Is the Press?
The press, or the media, is a collection of news-gathering organizations that report on what’s happening in the world. Newspapers, broadcast news (television and radio), websites and social media are some of the ways that people get their news these days.
“The role of the press is to inform people about what is going on in their community as well as important topics outside of their neighborhood,” says Mark Lodato, an associate dean of ASU's Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. “It’s also important to shed light on problems or issues that require the public’s attention and to act as a watchdog of government.”
It’s that role—government watchdog—that led to the press being called the fourth branch of government, or the fourth estate. Journalists and news agencies are members of the fourth estate.
“The government acts on behalf of its constituents and its residents all the time. It spends taxpayer dollars and enforces laws, it creates new regulations, and people need to be aware of what their government is up to,” Lodato explains. He adds that people who are in the know are better able to “make smart decisions and understand what their representatives are doing.
Phoenix Young Reporters gather after the workshop held at the Phoenix Zoo in 2016.
Why Is News Important?
America’s founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, believed that a free society required a free press. People who live in a democratic country must stay informed so that they can participate in the democracy. But it is also important to know what is happening in the world.
“I think it’s important to be a good global citizen, and that means understanding what’s going on around the world, not just in your own community, but in other countries, other states, other cities as well,” says Lodato. He adds that keeping up with the news “helps you be a more well-rounded person.”
A big part of being a well-informed citizen is knowing how to distinguish fact and opinion. Lodato admits that can be tricky, as there is plenty of both in the news these days. He fears that many times people hear opinions and mistake them for facts. So how can you tell the difference if you are not sure?
Lodato says that news CONSUMPTION should be like food consumption. “At the Cronkite School we always teach that it’s very important to have what I call a broad media diet—in other words, you don’t want to rely on just one or two news sources for all of your information,” explains Lodato. “You need to be vigilant,” he warns, and if something sounds untrue or questionable you should look at “other sources about those same topics so that you can figure out where the truth lies.”
Just the Facts, Please!
Young Reporters cover some extraordinary stories for Bear Essential News. While a lucky few might nab a big interview or get a sneak peek at a funtastic family film before anyone else sees it, some of Bear’s best stories come from your school, events in your community or some team or organization that you’re part of.
As a Young Reporter, you’re the eyes and ears of this award-winning newspaper. You also get to cover the news that interests you!
First and foremost, news is factual—a football game or fall fair that you covered really took place; terrible floods really hit Texas; a big asteroid named Florence really sped past Earth.
To get the facts, reporters gather the 5W’s and H of a story: the Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. If you want to be a good reporter, you’ll need to keep up with what’s happening around you. Read newspapers (including Bear Essential), watch the news on TV, read it online, and don’t be afraid to ask those in the know questions (like your teacher, troop leader or coach)!
Be Accurate In Your Story
The facts you gather can come from different sources. If you’re doing a story on how our summer monsoon rains compare with other years, you probably want to interview a local meteorologist (weather person). Your school library is also a good place to dig up facts—magazines, books and online searches.
Good reporters do their best to be accurate as they gather and write up their 5Ws and H. Think of yourself as a camera taking a photo of what’s really there or what’s really happening. And if you interview someone, put the strongest, most interesting things that person says in a quote or two. The words between quotation marks are, to the best of your ability, exactly what that person said to you.
If you’ve been following national news, you’ve heard the term “fake news” and maybe even “alternative facts.” The facts and how you write them up need to be truthful. As you’re gathering the facts, especially if it’s online, you need to make sure the source of this information is CREDIBLE. Most major newsgathering organizations are credible, as are governmental entities and organizations like the Humane Society or the Red Cross. If you doubt something being presented as factual, look for other credible sources that back up that fact!
Header image source: IndianYouth.net