Some weeks ago, a PeP reader wrote a comment in response to one of my semi-weekly diatribes against Katherine Kersten. This reader took issue with the notion that journalism is a respectable profession, as have many people across today's political spectrum.
Journalists have displaced lawyers as the new publicly favored punching bag. From bloggers to media critics to politicians to the everyday citizen, disapproval with the press has reached an all-time high. Journalists, however, are a necessary and vital part of a civil society, and it appears that the public has begun to take journalism for granted without realizing its importance.
A comparison of journalism and law aptly describes the point I'm trying to make. There is perhaps no other profession as reviled and respected as law. There are a million lawyer jokes out there, people consider them parasites and ambulance-chasers who are only out for themselves. Yet, the majority of lawyers do very noble work. Everyone loves to hate lawyers, and at the same time everyone loves to know a good one.
In the same way, journalists are being demonized today. Many consider them bloodsuckers who only look for stories that sell, which is why you see so many reports on sex, missing children, shark attacks, and so on. Journalists and their parent companies, as the argument goes, look at the bottom-line, and so what's produced is what titillates and strikes fear. Yet, while everyone loves to bitch about "the media" we still have newspapers, magazines, 24-hours news channels, among other sources, and we are dependent on them for stories that matter to us.
This dichotomy serves the classic paradigm of a love-hate relationship. We love the media when they're telling us something we want to know; we hate the media when they're telling us something we don't want to know, don't believe, or don't want to believe.
This is also a sign that the media is doing its job. Conservatives have rallied against journalism for decades because of a perceived liberal bias. Liberals, within the last decade and particularly since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which lead to massive deregulation of the media industry, have lambasted the press for a perceived conservative bias (see Fox News Channel and the Rupert Murdoch media empire) due to the conglomeration of news outlets into the hands of so few. When such criticism is coming down on an institution, at times venomously, from such diametrically opposed viewpoints, the press is doing a great job. The truth will always piss some people off, so if everyone's pissed off it seems that there's a lot of truth-telling going on.
I will not argue with the fact that there is some awful journalism out there; not in the sense of fairness, but in the sense of newsworthiness (if you need an example tune into any of our local news broadcasts). This fact, however, is more the result of the sheer volume of news that is consumed today, far more than at any other time in history. If you think back five, ten, 20 years ago to the amount of news available, you'll realize the massive amount of news that surrounds us. The result has been quite a lot of fluff and fantasy. Yet, there is still exceptional journalism being practiced. You just have to separate the wheat from chaff.
And, of course, the PeP is the place to do just that.
Note: This post makes me a renegade in bloggerdom, because most bloggers think that we are the next generation of journalists. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Blogs, which love to rail against the MSM (mainstream media) are so dependent on the MSM that they couldn't exist without it.