If you’re allergic to peanut butter, then you have no place in journalism.
Hear me out.
Think about journalism as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You’ve got rich, smooth (or crunchy) peanut butter that melts on your finger when you scoop it out the tub. Then you’ve got dulcet, fruity jelly that just makes your mouth salivate. Combine the two and you’ve got yourself some delish savory treat.
That peanut butter is as essential to a PB&J sandwich as much as curiosity is essential to journalism. The right amount of curiosity keeps your journalism robust, opulent and just enough piquant to keep your readers interested.
Sadly, as people grow older, their curiosity dwindles down and they stop asking questions, specifically the “why?”. Doctor Peter Gray, in his article As children’s freedom has declined, so has their curiosity, says that children lose their curiosity when they begin school. They want to learn for the good marks rather than for satisfying their hankering for knowledge. Yet staying curious for the sake of learning is the surest way to learn. Only then can you deliver the best results possible in whatever you do — and journalism is no exception!
However, no peanut butter and jelly sandwich can exist without bread, and in journalism that’s equivalent of critical thinking. Careless curiosity won’t get you far if you don’t use critical thinking to really analyze what’s in front of you. And no matter how smooth (or crunchy) your peanut butter is, without bread your sandwich will be a slab with nothing to hold it together.
If peanut butter is curiosity and bread is critical thinking, then jelly of this theoretical PB&J is the facts that make up the story. David Brewer, the founder of journalism resource aggregate Media Helping Media, explains that
“Journalism is about finding facts, interpreting their importance, and then sharing that information with the audience”. Facts are the proof that something newsworthy happened. If the news is the disruption of the norm, like Jeremy Vine says in his book It’s All News to Me, then journalists are ought to dig deeper into it. Journalists try to see the bigger picture rather than look at this sole episode. They ask questions, talk to sources and witnesses, search for other relating cases. They slam more jelly onto that delicious sandwich.
There are, of course, people who are allergic to peanut butter. These people will not go near a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The PB&J can sit on the counter, freshly made, but these people will not take a bite because they know that it can kill them. The truth about journalism is that putting it all together is hard work, but it cannot be done without curiosity and a drive to get to the core of the situation. So, if you don’t have a curious mind, then you have no place in journalism.
When you have a spicy story on hands, it is easy to put together the best article or podcast or news segment. But what if you don’t have good stuff to write about and your deadline is approaching fast? What if your story is so boring that washing the dishes seems more enjoyable? Go make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And don’t give up. The inventor of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich didn’t give up when he had nothing in his fridge except peanut butter and jelly.