Want to join my society of amateur journalists?
: I’m on a panel today at the meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Doesn’t that title sound anachronistic? Under one definition of the word, it’s odd these days to demark just those who are paid (the only blogger I hear going about that is Eric Alterman… and, by the way, how come I haven’t heard much of him lately?) These days, a lot of people do practice journalism — and, yes, it is journalism — for free because it is their passion, because they are — in the right definitions of the word — amateurs.
And under the other definition of the word — it’s all about standards, you know — the title is still anachronistic. Did these folks revoke Jayson Blair’s membership card because he was unprofessional? There are good and bad journalists and good and bad citizen journalists. Bragging about being “professional” seems like another way to try to stand up and apart from the people, it’s about creating the priesthood of the professionals.
Of course, I’m not criticizing the group for inheriting this name or even the folks who created it. Back in the old days — oh, five years ago — the only people who could practice journalism were the professionals because they were the ones who had access to the presses and broadcast towers their bosses, who paid them, owned.
But that has changed in an era when anybody can publish, anybody can broadcast, anybody can be a journalist. Being “professional” is now about being apart.