journalism is not a profession

journalism is not a profession

Neither is blogging.


exploratorium 3


In the US, we tend to call people professionals if they are paid monetary compensation for what they do.  There are professional athletes who play baseball, football, etc.  But, is baseball or football a profession?  Not in the traditional sense of the term.  The butcher, baker and candlestick maker all work in occupations.

Not so very long ago, as a student at university, my fellow students and I were told that there are four criteria necessary for a field of endeavor or an occupation to be a profession.

From memory, here is the list.

1. There must be a recognized program of study of the field at institutions of higher learning.  In other words, a college level curriculum.

2. The field must be self certifying.  This self certification normally requires (of the individual practitioner) educational achievements, the passing of standardized examinations, and work experiences in the field of endeavor.

3. Self-regulating and self-policing.  The recognized professions will remove unethical, incompetent, and/or criminal individuals from their ranks – or risk the loss of confidence of the public, and thereby invite greater government over sight or intrusion into the profession.

4. A profession has a code of professional ethics or conduct (relevant to the activities its practitioners are involved in).

Journalism only meets the first criteria.  (I recall the small brick building that housed the college of journalism at the university I attended.)  If one wonders what a code of professional ethics for journalists might contain, visit this link.

I cannot take that code of ethics seriously as they themselves say it is not enforceable and that it is “voluntarily embraced by thousands of writers, . . . ” (emphasis in the original).  Journalism is not self-policing.  Such high-sounding words catch your attention when one reads through the document at length.  Cook book suggestions that those who wrote it hope journalists will honor in their work behavior.

Editors, reporters, staff writers, publishers (in the print media), and producers, newscasters, etc. (in radio and television) – these are all occupations.

There are not many occupations that meet all the 4 criteria.  A few come to mind and are rightly considered professions.  Medicine, law (attorneys or barristers), engineering (engineers can be licensed in the specialties or subdivisions of engineering such as civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, etc.), and even accounting are professions.  (In the US, accountants must pass the CPA exam, have a college degree in accounting, and in many states have one to two years of auditing experience before they are licensed and considered professionals.  In the UK and Canada, I believe these are known as chartered accountants.)

Let’s briefly discuss the current shortcomings in journalism and news reporting here in the US.  (This may be relevant to readers outside the US as well.)

Especially in what is known as the mainstream media (the large news corporations such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the big TV networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and even FOX News), there is a selective censoring of the stories that are allowed to go out over the airwaves or to appear in the pages of a major newspaper or news magazine.  Inconvenient truths (facts that contradict the editors’ mindset and views) often are suppressed – one of the 3 principal forms of a lie.  (The other 2 forms of a lie are telling falsehoods, and trafficking in half-truths.)  This burying of inconvenient truths (in the US) occurs in the coverage of most controversial topics with only rare exceptions (from the currently touted “scientific consensus” on so-called man-made global warming, to abortion and its known statistically significant link to an increased risk of breast cancer for women who have aborted their first pregnancy.)

So people have to search the Internet for sources of credible information on various independent websites.  Also, some of the guests on various radio talk shows – who have actually done much independent research on their own and are not ideologically driven – can be good sources of information (on their websites and in the articles and/or books they have written).

My point here is that a healthy skepticism as to what is reported by the mainstream news media in the US is justified.

For recent subscribers who may be interested, here is an earlier essay that is relevant.

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “journalism is not a profession

  1. Larry, I was reminded of this video when I was reading this. It seems Diane Feinstein wants Congress to “certify” who is a legitimate journalist and who is not… presumably with the later intention of only allowing those journalists it deems “legitimate” to express their views. They are inserting this language in a “Reporter Shield” law that sounds ominous. Since when do reporters even need to be “shielded”? Shielded from what, being hauled off to secret detention center?

    • Thanks Stephen. We hope that journalists will present all the facts and not be selective in their reporting, but we are against the government licensing reporters and journalists as that would be an attack on free speech. Our government does not like any criticism from any quarter. Nor does the Senate want all its activities to be widely known by the citizenry it appears.

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