Do journalists ‘change’ society?

World Journalists Conference 2022, held on April 25-26 by the Journalists Association of Korea, focused on two main topics of discussion. One of them was ‘A society changed by journalists’ exploring the role of journalists and journalism on society. 24 speakers from around the world presented their ideas on the subject and many fascinating perspectives melded, clashed and came forth during the conference.

Bilal Bassal (France) put forward his stance, talking about the rise of electronic journalism and how it has affected the profession. According to Bassal, as digital newspapers offered free news accessible to everyone with an internet connection, it had a negative impact on everyone.

“Studies have begun to prove the harmful effects of electronic journalism on physical and psychological health, not reflected in particular societies but rather in the global community,” said Bassal.

Bilal Bassal giving his speech at the World Journalists Conference 2022

But Bassal’s concern is not with news being free, but how that has affected traditional journalism and removed all accountability and effort on the part of journalists who can get away with publishing anything without a sense of responsibility.

According to the journalist, the real danger began “not because the authentic or committed press is no longer accessible to everyone, but rather because it has melted into a sea of electronic journalism saturated with lies and misinformation.”

The prestige and respect of the once-noble profession of journalism has now become questionable, according to Bassal. He left us with some questions to ponder: “Can the real journalists still change and influence societies like in the past after all that was mentioned? Are they still capable of changing society, or was the society itself the one that changed them?”

Nurzhan Kasmalieva during her speech at the World Journalists Conference 2022.

Nurzhan Kasmalieva from Kyrgyzstan also expressed similar concerns. “Combining technology, speed and ease, social media has changed behaviors, affected attitudes and imposed a new way of life and communication throughout the world,” she said. “Unfortunately, they have also helped disinformation spread faster and wider across the world.”

Ashraf Aboul-yazid Eldaly (Egypt) provided his insights as to what a journalist needs in order to be effective at his profession and how he or she might change society.

According to Eldaly, a good journalist “a person of justice, the voice of truth and a hand of society”. A good journalist should “be a good researcher”, “be aware of both traditional and modern types of communications” and “go beyond reporting numbers, figures and diagrams”.

Ashraf Aboul-yazid Eldaly giving his speech at the World Journalists Conference 2022.

Citing climate change and racism as some of the major issues of the world, Eldaly said journalists need to get serious and that a good journalist “must assist and get help, as well, from science. He/she will not spread false facts or misguided opinions against science.”

For Eldaly, a good journalist must show truth, honesty and care. “If sources trust you, they will certainly lead you to truth. An honest journalist is dependable. And a caring journalist will feel the pulsing power of people.” Hence, “A good journalist makes a difference, doing something serious and important to change people’s lives for the better, and lead social change to create a chain reaction, and empower people by educating them.”

You can read Ashraf Aboul-yazid Eldaly’s full speech here, Nurzhan Kasmalieva’s speech here and Bilal Bassal’s speech here.

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