Tuesday, April 29, 2008
- Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, on the way The Associated Press covered an advertisement critical of John McCain.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 11:32 AM
I think that this is more telling:
and helps explain the death spiral in which so much of the media finds itself. I think, once again, the false notion that journalism is a profession is largely to blame. Williams received a firestorm of comments from readers about a story that pointed out the unethical way that he and his network had conducted themselves. He and his network had been feeding the public a steady diet of government propaganda, from persons Williams presented as expert commentators. Williams had not disclosed influence about the political and financial influences on these "experts," information that was relevant to judging their credibility.
Williams's response was to present his personal impression about the integrity of the "experts" the network had used - like that mattered. He did not explain how his personal impression that the "experts" were trustworthy justified his failure to point out the influences that motivated them to present a particular perspective, or his failure to present alternative viewpoints - viewpoints that have, over the past 5 years, proven much more accurate than those of his "experts".
The problem is that Williams sees journalism as a profession. He esteems his own viewpoint and that of his fellow journalists above those of the public. He is a journalist, journalism is a profession, members of the public are not professionals, professional viewpoints are better informed, therefore the only perspectives worth considering are those of other journalists. That's how we get the self-reinforcing storylines that we get.
The reason that this notion among journalists that they are a profession is that they aren't a profession. Professions are governed by rules that are in place to protect the public. The ethical rules of journalism are only in place to protect journalists' prerogatives and sense of self-importance. For example, the prohibition against "checkbook journalism" is in place to keep media companies from having to spend money. The obsession with "protecting sources" is motivated by a desire to maintain the flow of anonymous gossip, and barbecue, on which lazy journalists depend.
It's ironic, but if journalists didn't think of themselves as professionals, they would act in a much more professional manner.
The reason that this notion among journalists that they are a profession -->leads to such unfortunate results<-- is that they aren't a profession.