10 million Luthers

10 million Luthers

: Jay Rosen — who’s never half-baked but who’s always eager for conversation — took his sweet time to formulate his responses to Deep Throat’s unveiling and to the announcement of a big-money effort to fix journalism education and he put them together in a post that examines the religion journalism has become and the conclave of cardinals that the Carnegie-Knight initiative is.

The commonly accepted tenets and practices of our religion are due for questioning and one would hope that journalists — so proud of being skeptics — would be the questioners and that journalism schools — where academics are so proud of questioning — would be the place for this to occur. But, of course, journalism and journalism education are institutions that attempt to preserve their religion. So Jay’s response to the big load of cash that landed in the collection plate last week is this:

Maybe what we need is not funding for a new church, but a breakaway church, or two, or three of them. (And what is Fox News Channel, but that?)

And what are bloggers but 10 million Luthers pounding on the door?

This is not to say that I reject the instititutions of journalism and I don’t think Jay rejects the institutions of journalism education or we wouldn’t both be men of the paper. But we do believe that the breakaways, the challengers, the heretics are good for these institutions, which should be questioning their ways to find betters ones.

Among the religious tenets that should be questioned, in Jay’s post: Did Woodward and Bernstein and Bradlee bring down the emperor Nixon… or — to make a bad metaphor unbearable — did Mark Felt as Brutus bring down this Caesar, did agencies of government do the job more than institutions of journalism? And are we really so skeptical, we reporters, are do we too often report what the powerful want us to report? Is it right and necessary that journalists pay their dues working their way up the institutional ladder when others are walking around that ladder to do the same work? Are the products of journalism’s two holy sacraments — investigative reporting and good, old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting — what the public really wants or what journalists want?

Watergate has been treated by journalists as a consensus narrative, with an agreed-upon lesson for all Americans. The Fourth Estate model not only works, it can save us. The press shall know the truth and the truth shall check the powers that be, whether Democrat or Republican. Chasing stories, exposing corruption, giving voice to the downtrodden: that’s what we in journalism do, the myth says. We do it for the American people.

That’s what we want to believe in journalism, but is it true?

: MORE: Laura Washington writes in the Sun-Times that journalism’s mirror is cracked:

When the journalism profession looks in the mirror, it doesn’t like what it sees.

It sees a public turned off by the news — news of a never-ending succession of our journalistic crimes from plagiarism to fabrication; squabbles over anonymous sources; half-hearted mea culpas, and just-plain-old screw-ups. It sees a profession in crisis….

When readers and viewers look into the mirror that is our media, they don’t see themselves. A recent report by Columbia’s own Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in the last 17 years, Americans have “come to see the press as less professional, less moral, more inaccurate, and less caring about the interests of the country.” Surveys taken between 1985 and 2002 reveal the proportion of Americans who view news organizations as “highly professional” declined from 72 percent to 49 percent. Those who considered news organizations “moral” fell from 54 percent to 39 percent. And news consumers who “thought the press got the facts straight” fell from 55 percent to 35 percent.

Joe Six-Pack doesn’t read the newspaper over his morning eggs and coffee anymore. The couch potatoes are furiously clicking off the nightly news. Readers and viewers see the media as an elitist bunch that neither live nor reflect their reality. The news honchos who have the most sway over writing and producing the news are mostly white men over 50….

Whoa about there. I was fine until she turned this into a quota thing… and that’s not just because I am a white man over 50 (not that there’s anything wrong with that, right?). She falls into newsroom-think: that diversity is about the colors of the people you see inside the newsroom. No, diversity is about the voices and views outside and whether they are heard. They are beginning to be heard online, because they can be, so why do they need to go inside the newsroom? No, it’s up to the newsroom to listen to what is happening outside its walls. [Thanks to Paladin in the comments for the link!]