Saturday, July 09, 2005

While I'm Beating Up on CJR...

Samantha Henning writes:

But if being a reporter has some journalistic standards attached to it, then only those upholding such standards should qualify for the title. (And if those standards don't exist, then, well, we better pack up and find new work.)


Providing fodder for comedy makes you a participant; it doesn't make you a comedian. The same goes for journalism. Just because citizens have a new way of recording and transmitting that fodder hardly means that it's time to call them journalists.

I don't really disagree with the larger thrust of her post, but what are these standards of which she speaks? I know they exist, and I know that some outposts in our media try to adhere to them or at least pretend they do, but, the vast majority of what comprises contemporary journalism doesn't adhere to any recognizable standards or even try to.

If the responsible media wants to elevate and professionalize journalism to a greater extent, I'm all for it. However, if they want to do so they'd be a lot more productive training their guns on the Limbaughs and O'Reilly's and numerous syndicated columnists etc... etc... than on "citizen journalists" or bloggers or whatever. To America, Bill O'Reilly is a journalist. The line between journalism/commentary/opinion/analysis/propagandist/hack was completely blurred by the mainstream media itself long before bloggers came along.

A not so modest proposal for those who consider themselves to be responsible reporters: stop appearing on TV roundtable segments where you're paired with opinion columnists or other people who are allowed to have an explicit agenda. If you think most viewers understand the difference between "reporter for the Washington Post" and "senior editor of the National Review" you're wrong, and if you want them to understand the difference you have to stop allowing yourselves to be placed on equal footing with them.