Jay Rosen, back from a journalism educators’ confab, writes about what he used to teach but doesn’t now. A few of his bullets:
* I used to teach it implicitly: journalism is a profession. Now I think it’s a practice, in which pros and amateurs both participate. There were good things about the professional model, and we should retain them. But it’s the strength of the social practice that counts, not the health of any so-called profession. That is what J-schools should teach and stand for, I believe. I don’t care if they’re called professional schools. They should equip the American people to practice journalism by teaching the students who show up, and others out there who may want help.
Yes, and so we need to rethink how we look at the schools and their mission just as we look at the news organizations and their missions. More on this soon.
* I used to teach that the ethics of journalism, American-style, could be found in the codes, practices and rule-governed behavior that our press lived by. Now I think you have to start further back, with beliefs way more fundamental than: “avoid conflicts of interest in reporting the news.” If you teach journalism ethics too near the surface of the practice, you end up with superficial journalists.
* The ethics of journalism begin with propositions like: the world is basically intelligible if we have accurate reports about it; public opinion exists and ought to be listened to; through the observation of events we can grasp patterns and causes underneath them; the circle of people who know how things work should be enlarged; there is something called “the public record” and news adds itself meaningfully to it; more information is good for it leads to greater awareness, which is also good; stories about strangers have morals and we need to hear them, and so on. These are the ethics I would teach first….
* Alas, I used to teach that the world needs more critics; but it was an unexamined thing. Today I would say that the world has a limited tolerance for critics, and while it always needs more do-ers, it does not always need more chroniclers, pundits, or pencil-heads.