What are journalists here for, anyway?

Here are some good comments under my post on journalism and the vow of poverty questioning whether journalism’s job is to dig or inform. They are questioning a primary article of faith that is taught in journalism: that we are here to expose the bad guys.

W.J. Jones says:

Funny how that professor talked about journalists keeping a close eye on the “abuse of power” is their foremost job.

I thought journalism was telling readers what is happening in their community as quickly and correctly as you can.

At least that’s what I do everyday when I go to work.

Maybe the students are fleeing journalism classes when they realize the professor is urging them to doggedly pursue, scrutinize, challenge and scorn anything the professor himself scrutinizes and scorns.

That’s not journlalism. That’s call a vigilante with a pen and pad.

The reason the big newspapers are failing is that the reporters and editors who buy into the professor’s lie are chasing a Pulizter and trying to impress — and walk over — the reporter at the desk next to them.

In other words, they’ve lost sight of what journalism is — and isn’t — and believe a hit piece or expose will put them over the top. It won’t.

People read the newspaper to know what’s going on — not to read who got caught “abusing power.”

John Davidson says:

The way that Schultz frames this is exactly what drove me from becoming a reporter and into advertising when I was in j-school in 1987:

“The thought of starting out at $25,000 or $30,000 to expose corruption and champion the underdog just doesn’t do it for them.”

Which is pretty much the way that most of my professors framed what they were teaching me: it was the altruistic, lowly writer who was the only one brave enough to TAKE DOWN THE BAD GUYS. And thus we have the culture of conflict that the MSM has so carefully manifested over the past few decades: if it bleeds, it leads. If you don’t follow that particular ideology, then apparently democracy is lost (“I don’t mean to overstate this, but I worry about the future of democracy,” one retired professor told me. “If our journalists don’t challenge the abuse of power, who will?”) GOOD RIDDANCE.

And CaptiousNut says:

The notion that good jounalism and good business are inherently at odds is a canard propagated by those that suck at both.

Furthermore, it is rooted in elitism and the premise that the masses are stupid.

“Business” is the feedback mechanism that tells the media they stink. It is not so much the realities of business that chafe them – it is the fact that declining circulation numbers and dwindling viewship dare to impose standards on people who otherwise feel exempt.

: Meanwhile, I happened across a blog post written as a journalism assignment, as near as I can tell. The student said, in response to my saying (in a post or an article, not sure which) that Yahoo should include blogs and news together, since the line between them is blurring:

I can’t help but wonder where the future of journalism is going. Why are students like me studying journalism when the public eventually will not be able to tell the difference between citizen and professional?

Jeff Jarvis is wrong when he says,if you inform the public, you are committing an act of journalism.The public has a tough enough job of determining if something is biased without citizens informing the public.

I’m troubled if journalism students think a degree makes them journalists. Doing journalism does.