Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach

By Christopher Meyers | Go to book overview

6
Why Journalism Is a
Profession

Michael Davis

Journalism is often said not to be a profession for one or more of the following reasons: (1) journalists are not licensed, (2) journalism lacks a body of theoretical knowledge, (3) journalism has no required curriculum through which all (or even most) journalists must pass, (4) journalists cannot exclude nonjournalists (stringers, bloggers, and so on) from reporting news, (5) (most) journalist are not independent consultants but employees (and therefore lack “professional autonomy”), (6) journalists do not serve clients (only employers or the public), (7) most journalists are not members of any professional organization (such as the Society of Professional Journalists), and (8) journalists as such do not have high status or high income (though a few do). Just seeing all these reasons together may seem enough to settle the question of journalism’s status as a profession. Clearly, journalism is neither a profession nor even a quasi-profession, proto-profession, or anything close.

And yet, many of us, perhaps even most journalists, feel that journalism is a profession—or, at least, much more like nursing, teaching, or engineering than like selling cars, managing a McDonald’s, or even writing novels. Our worry is not whether journalism is now a profession, but whether it can remain a profession in a world where commerce, politics, and technology seem to be working against journalism as we have known it. The great media empires now treat news as a way of getting attention for their advertisements, not as a public service. Governments around the world, including our own, have come increasingly to consider journalists a nuisance rather than the Fourth Estate. And the Internet seems to be making news organizations, including their journalists, unnecessary. The future seems to belong to the bloggers.

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