Different types of media people
Posted on June 26th, 2016

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando Courtesy Ceylon Today

In a broad generalization the word ‘public’ simply denotes openness. This feature can be associated with the community, social responsibility and also becomes applicable and helpful on discussion and debate. In terms of the media, it serves the function of bringing out information and various issues to the open to establish publicity. In a democracy media have to play a key role in a multitude of ways permitting controversies and ideas to be debated, thus manifesting the public will. In that respect the media clearly serve public functions.

When people watch television, read a magazine or a newspaper or even listen to an audio tape, compact disc or buy books, they automatically relate to mass media as separate individuals. However, there is a difference between the term ‘public’ and the ‘audience.’ For example, an audience becomes the market (the commodity) but as part of the public their range of concern becomes broader. When people become ‘part of the public’ they tend to act differently being extremely selfish and their interest of the public in terms of thinking and behavioural patterns becoming far from being fair and just.

Journalist’s role

The definition of the word ‘journal’ in the Oxford Dictionary is simply a “record of events or news, properly published daily, but now extended to any newspaper or other periodical published at regular intervals.” Journalism, therefore, could be described as a three-prong operation of producing records by gathering records and disseminating of information.

The modern publication industry too has diversified at present into many forms. The normal broadsheet newspaper has gone through many metamorphoses and branched out to tabloid forms, glossy magazine formats and longer interval periodicals, thus maintaining one common factor of catching the basic essence of journalism.

Journalism can be categorized into two main divisions. They are ‘Professional’ full-time staff writers and part-time freelancers. A general misconception that exists among new comers to journalism appears to be that they think a freelancer as an ‘amateur.’ Nothing could be further from the truth in such connotations because there is no such thing called an ‘amateur journalist.‘ On the contrary, the freelancer has to be more professional than his staff brother or sister journalist. Neither the full-time journalist nor the freelancer necessarily mean part-time. For instance, two of the British Journalists’ Trade Associations, the National Union of Journalists and the Institute of Journalists have freelance sections.

Freelance journalist

It is impossible to differentiate any published work of freelance journalist, such as a news story, feature article, or sports report from that of a full-time staff journalist. The only material difference lies between the staff journalist and the freelancer where staff member usually works full time for one particular employer, newspaper or magazine, while the freelancer is free to work for anyone at any time in any capacity.

However, there appears to be an unwritten law in the newspaper industry in Sri Lanka particularly those freelancers are not welcome or their contributions accepted (for payment or otherwise) if their byline is prominently registered and frequently appears in a particular newspaper. However, as is always the case, there are exceptions to the rule when some of the freelancers happen to be well-known figures, politicians or distinguished administrators attached to the government (present or past), because editors helplessly become obliged and compelled to give prominence to such well-known figures (willingly or unwillingly) while skipping others’ contributions or consign to a nearest dustbin, akin to the methods adopted by the powerful on public roads when they travel with a row of security vehicles pushing the common man and woman to the nearby drain.

Freelance journalism

There are no boundaries or restrictions for freelance journalism in a civilized democracy. It does not matter whether one resides even in Timbuktu if the piece is worth publishing it should have access to any local newspaper or magazine. In such a scenario, the freelance journalist of course needs to know his onions and what topics will arouse local interest. That is what is meant by ‘there are no restrictions.’

Once upon a time journalism was regarded as a trade. Subsequently, it turned into a craft and now accepted as a profession. It is known as the ‘Fourth Estate’ in the UK, other three being the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and the House of Commons. In other words, journalism has always been and will always remain as a means of earning money.

Present day journalists in Sri Lanka are very much dependent on payment as in most cases it has turned into a full-time job and a means of living. So it is understandable that even editors favour some good freelance columnists because we all have to exist in this world. It may sound pretty mercenary to put as bluntly as that, but the fact remains that journalism is all about money. A piece of journalistic writing is directly proportional to whether or not people are willing to pay to read it. This means, as far as the journalist is concerned, whether or not an editor is prepared to pay cash to publish his work; and, to a lesser extent, how much cash he is prepared to pay, it is not a perfect yardstick, of course. Like many other yardsticks, it can be a blunt instrument.

Media globalization

One of the major experiences towards the end of the 20th century was the globalization of communication and culture whereby people effectively were able to perceive the same event, such as the Olympic games, the World Cup Championship, terrorist activities, war, various types of ad hoc academy awards, sports, wildlife and significant historical events in real time. A journalist needs to have at least an average intelligence, as journalism is one of the few professions where paper qualifications do not automatically ensure success. To be a sharp writer or to become a popular journalist the possession of a good university degree is not necessarily essential.

The scope for the freelance journalist is enormous, for anything from an editorial column of a newspaper to a popular magazine. In the modern world, articles can be written on any subject ranging from food, money, beauty, sports, health, travel, holidays, the arts, social services, sex, literature, computers, spiritual to politics and the list goes on.

Technology

Today especially television has become a possibility from virtually any place in the globe thanks to the satellites bouncing off information and communication from 26,000 miles above the earth. This is made possible by installing television cameras capturing images at one end while recorded digital information fed by a satellite uplink transmitter to the satellite, amplified by the satellite and repeated. It then becomes receivable at a ground level to a media station to disseminate through a network to a television set where the signal gets decoded and appear as visual images.

Open end

There are thousands of newspapers and magazines and news agencies today throughout the world, which are in the market for material. In Benn’s Media Directories there are more than 5,000 British markets listed. Another market reference source is Writers & Artists’ yearbook, which is published annually by A & C Black Co., London, in association with Writers’ Digest of Ohio, USA. For the freelance journalist there is a world of opportunity in the field of feature articles.

Thanks to the modern advanced technology when people travel, their cultural references in music, film and television too are likely to cross national boundaries in a predictable and surprising manner. Current technological innovations make it possible for a viewer in one part of the world to watch something taking place or someone on the other side of the world with the aid of television, Skype or via modern smart mobile phones by downloading various types of apps with the aid of Wi-Fi facilities.

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