Student essay: Terrell Henderson

In the fall of 2019, Journalism History conducted an undergraduate student essay contest. Students answered the question that our podcast hosts ask at the end of every episode: Why does journalism history matter?

Terrell Henderson, University of Kansas, submitted this month’s essay, the last in the series.

Journalism is a forever evolving process that may not see an end. When it comes to journalism there has always been a process that involves change. In order to know where we are going, we have to know where we came from, and being a part of a new age of journalists it is very important that we know our history. Journalism history is more than just knowing about the style guidelines and the copy-editing process back then. Journalism history involves knowing how audience engagement worked, how certain bias has evolved, and most importantly what was deemed as “great journalism.” Since the beginning, journalism has seen a great deal of change. From the modern era to the social media, the way we receive our news is always changing and knowing how we ended up in this era could possibly help us with journalism in the future.

When you compare journalism now to what it was back in the day you end up looking at some similarities and many differences between various eras. Before social media, there was a time where news had to be slowly processed and media outlets controlled the story. In today’s time with social media around you really have to be on it when it comes to reporting scoops on stories because you can get beaten out by another journalist. For anyone to say that journalism history is not critical to us today would be very wrong in my opinion. There are so many aspects of journalism to look into, and in almost every aspect you can find something that reflects the journalism that used to be.

One major thing we can take a look at is the news system itself. The news system in older times is much different than the way that news is profiled now. The biggest change between now and back then is the demand of news. Now there is such a huge demand for news and that developed over time. Different topics, subjects, and even opinions from certain people became a demand, and the outlets had to supply that demand. Even the way the media covers certain events such as debates has changed drastically. All of these changes are because of what journalism has now become. Journalism history matters more than ever because of how much has changed.
Social media and coverage of certain events would not be what it was without the way we covered events in the past.

When families were gathered around their televisions watching Apollo 11 lift off into space, and people around the United States were all watching in their living rooms, this historic event would have been viewed very differently over time. Now people could view the event from their phones and computers, and the event itself will have the same impact on the community but just not in the same manner as before when people all had to be in the same room. You can see so many different trends here when comparing the befores and afters of media. Most importantly, that gap on how we went from viewing events in our living room’s to now viewing these events anywhere in the world is a major factor in knowing your journalism history.

Even key pieces of journalism articles from the past can reflect key articles that we read today. Journalism will always have a reflection of the past. Each new prize-winning story or any prize-winning media piece always has an inspiration, a back story, or more importantly, a history. Another reason why journalism history is so important is because is because it is always going to be presented in the work that we do today. So many articles that were written in the past such as “AIDS in the Heartland” have opened the doors for us today. People that have really pushed the limits of journalism back then and got very explicit or key stories published, are the reason we are able to publish our thoughts in our work today.

Journalism history is shown with every new piece of content that we create. With every new story, picture, video, and any other form of media, we are opening doors for future journalists just like journalists back then did for us. It is hard for us to forget our journalism history simply because we are reminded of it every day. We see the grounds that journalists before us have laid out for the truth to be told. Without the journalists who came before us we would possibly be looking at a different world now. To be a journalist takes much more than a pen and paper. There has to be a driving force behind that pen and paper; journalism requires a confident and strong person to get the job done. That is what previous journalists have done and it is up to us to keep that fearless journalism going. There is not really a sentence or a paragraph that can really sum up why journalism history is so important. There are so many different answers you can provide, but if you find yourself saying journalism history is not important at all, go back and take a look. You might have missed something.

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