“I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”

-Henry Luce

For budding journalists, perhaps nothing is as important as discovering role models who inspire them toward greatness. Enter the individuals below. Whether demonstrating excellence in their field, innovating writing styles or giving a voice to the voiceless, these famous journalists gave new meaning to the word distinction.

The Journalist’s Role

When understanding the role of a journalist, the American Press Institute may say it best:

“News is that part of communication that keeps us informed … The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”

The responsibility of journalists is not simply to document what happens. It is to document events in such a way that allows the most honest reality of any event to surface, thus providing readers with the deepest possible capacity for understanding the world around them.

8 Influential Journalists

Although the eight influential journalists below do not always follow what is considered a traditional model of journalism, they do demonstrate the highest quality in their field. The breadth of their work demonstrates the extensive range of opportunities within the profession.

Murrey Marder

Known for his thorough and meticulous reporting, Marder is perhaps most famous for being one of the first reporters to challenge Sen. Joe McCarthy on his claims of widespread espionage during the height of the Red Scare. Marder also covered such prominent events as the Alger Hiss trial and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Throughout his 40-plus year history as an investigative reporter, Marder’s name became synonymous with watchdog journalism.

Ruben Salazar

Considered one of the most prominent Latino journalists of the 20th century, Salazar worked on several prominent assignments before famously covering the Chicano movement in Los Angeles during the late 1960s. His work on the movement is credited with helping to legitimize issues of the marginalized to the public, as well as making Chicano issues accessible to white readers. Salazar later transferred to broadcasting and continued to report on crime, race relations and political movements until his death.

Joan Didion

An essayist, novelist and screenwriter, Didion is best known for her keen observations of California in the 1960s. Her work gave voice to the zeitgeist of a changing nation and is famous for its deeply personal nature. Didion’s work has won a host of prominent awards including the National Humanities Medal.

Hunter S. Thompson

Known as the father of “gonzo journalism,” Thompson was a magazine journalist, novelist and essayist whose work famously criticized the American Dream. With a persona that epitomized counterculture, he regularly wrote for Rolling Stone magazine and published books such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell’s Angels. Thompson’s work notably blended fiction, fact and the perspectives found in a riotous lifestyle in such a way that ultimately inspired a generation.

Bob Woodward

Woodward is most famous for investigating (along with Carl Bernstein) the Watergate Hotel break-in, a scandal that led to the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. A long-serving reporter for The Washington Post, Woodward became known for writing intimate exposés, particularly with political celebrities. His coverage of the Sept. 11 aftermath helped the Post win a Pulitzer in 2002.

Christiane Amanpour

Amanpour is a British news anchor and journalist considered one of the most preeminent living broadcasters of today. Famous for her war correspondence, she rose to acclaim in the 1990s while reporting with CNN. She notably obtained the first-ever interview with King Abdullah of Jordan. Amanpour has won numerous Emmys and Peabody Awards and has received recognition from the Library of American Broadcasting, among other accolades.

Robert Fisk

Also a British journalist, Fisk has successfully worked in some of the most dangerous areas in the modern world. Known for being one of the few Western journalists permitted to interview al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, he is famous for doing so three times. His coverage of the Gulf War, Afghanistan War and Iraq War are noted for his eyewitness accounts and capacity to tell multiple sides of a story with insight and depth.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates is an essayist, journalist and author known for his deeply insightful commentary on pop culture, politics and race relations in the United States. As a regular contributor to The Atlantic, Coates gained a wide audience with such stories as “The Case for Reparations” and “Fear of a Black President.” He later won the National Book Award for his nonfiction title Between the World and Me. He has been named a MacArthur fellow and has received the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award, among other honors.

Sources: Britannica.comThe EconomistNew York Film AcademyBiography.comPBS,  The Washington PostNational Speakers Bureau

Your Place in the World of Journalism

For students who aspire to tell the stories of the world as journalists, the online bachelor’s from Point Park University provides a path to career advancement and real-world success.