On the last day of the colloquium, I realized that I liked comparing the question ''Who is a journalist?'' to ''Who is a teacher?''
Because what's happening now in society is that technology is allowing the role of journalist to become more like that of a teacher, in the sense of anyone being able to do it.
Any mother or father can always be a teacher to their child, and don't need a certificate from a teacher's college to do so. Just so, a computer with an Internet connection means that virtually anyone can see something in the world, write it up, and within seconds report their findings to the whole world via the World Wide Web, email distribution lists, and other communication technologies.
We all know that the essence of teaching is not the accreditation but the activity itself, a process by which something known by one being is shared with another. I think that applies to the essence of journalism, too. Especially from the viewpoint of the citizen, the question ultimately is about the integrity of the process and the utility of the result.These can not essentially be measured by diplomas or degrees, but only by applying what is taught to the test of reality.
I heard someone say once that learning happens when a door is opened from the inside. If that is so, then teaching is some kind of a miraculous act in which a kind of whispering or telepathic conveyance through a closed door to the person within, causes that person to open an inner door. It is not just one door but many that open from the inside, and what they open to can amount to the whole world.
This is not so different a process from journalism. Teaching is a matter of one-one-one; and journalism of one-to-many. But teaching is the deeper, because the one-to-many model of journalistic teaching builds on the model of teaching from one-to-one. One could say perhaps journalism is a subset of larger activity of teaching, i.e., that all journalism is teaching, but not all teaching is journalism.
Journalism is a form of teaching in which someone, anyone, learns facts about the nature of present public life, which facts he or she then shares equally, by some means of mass distribution, amongst everyone in that public.
I like to think about journalism and teaching in this way, because I think journalism's positive role in society could be strengthened if its self-image, and thereby its daily practice, was more explicitly and consciously tied to an understanding of its teaching role.
For example, just as one-on-one teaching is one of the most powerful forms of positive communication between human beings, so journalism could play such a role within all society. One-on-one teaching leads to increasing the potential for the fulfillment of personal potentials; so too could journalism exert a similar force within society. One-on-one teaching too can perform a kind of healing function, bringing previously disparate and even antagonistic parties into accord by allowing them to imaginatively expand the world of the other. Why not a similar role for journalism within society?
Along these lines, a great deal can be gained by reflecting that all true teaching is an experience not of a one-way flow of information from, say, the filled pitcher of the teacher's mind into the empty mug of the student's. Rather, to truly experience teaching is to dive into a kind of rushing flow in which all manner of content -- not just raw data but impressions, sensations, sudden insights, feelings of blockage or ignorance and much else -- is at all times coursing between the parties concerned.
From such a perspective, it is ridiculous even to denote one of the parties as "student" and the other as "teacher." Truer to the reality would be to say that something like a succession of moments were occurring that looked something like "teacher-student"--"student-teacher"--"teacher-student", and so on continuously, almost like alternative current running through electrical wire.
At this basic metaphysical level, teaching creates a whole and completed circuit of energy and life. It's a profoundly wholesome and positive thing. To feel and flow with the energy of this circuit is allow one's being, or perhaps one might say the partnership of teacher-student, or whoever is in the circuit, to express or carry the essential life force that constantly circles through every part of creation.
Insofar as this process enables a smooth, continuous, and enriched relationship between selves that previously were distant from each other and therefore possibly clashing, the process of teaching is a process of healing.
In a similar way, if journalism saw itself as a form of teaching that healed an otherwise dangerous gap between groups and individuals, to this degree it could support wide-scale social healing.