The profession of journalism is a public and social occupation.
Journalists as professionals both support and sustain the credibility of the decision-making system and maintain its functions. Whether a journalist is actually a user of social power is, however, a more complicated question.
The work of journalists is essentially the same, irrespective of the media channel (radio, television, press or so on), as the same principles and values of news production and conveying information are still valid.
The most important values of a journalist are truthfulness, impartiality, independence of commercial and political interests and responsibility. Thus, even if a journalist handles social issues, s/he must not strive to be a political force. A reporter can present pointed opinions, but it has to be done separately from news work, otherwise the credibility of the reporter as an independent conveyor of information is undermined, and the audience can easily begin think that everything that the journalist in question does is biased.
The most important values of a journalist are truthfulness, impartiality, independence of commercial and political interests and responsibility.
Journalists must adhere to good journalistic practice, and this largely happens through self-regulation.
The societal position of a reporter is very acutely described by a textbook of Finnish journalism “Principles of Journalistic Work”, written by Aino Suhola, Seppo Turunen and Markku Varis (2005), which outlines the premises of press work:
“You are a reporter, not a star. You are a servant of the people, not a ruler. You are a seeker of knowledge, not its guardian. You know people, but you are not everyone’s friend. You are there, but not seen – you are a shadow. You are present, but you are not the object of the piece of news, nor the one something is happening to. You are not the protagonist of the news article. You do a profession which is mundane work. You are a professional, according to whose information the majority of us construct our worldview.”
Even though journalism is very important to the functions of a democratic society, journalism as a profession is sometimes not held in a high regard.
Many reasons can be found for this: prejudice and outcry related to gossip magazine reporters and the paparazzi, accusations of bias and of sucking up to policymakers have all affected people’s attitudes towards journalists. Additionally, people easily criticise the work of a journalist if the perspectives or the coverage do not appeal to them for personal or ideological reasons.