Leaving it to professionalsWritten by Tim Higgins | | email@example.com
There is a great deal of furor in the mainstream media these days over who should be considered a credible source of information and whose voice should be heard in the marketplace of ideas. Much of the argument is little more than an attempt to dismiss Conservative voices, and anything and everything (especially bloggers) not part of their exclusive club of “professional journalists”. According to some those formally instructed in the principles of journalism, only people who graduate from certified institutions of these apparently arcane arts should be allowed to contribute. (Such is not the case at the TFP I am happy to say, though many there do have such training.)
I find it curious that those on one side of the argument should be allowed to decide it for all. I find it interesting that such stock is placed in this formal education process, since it’s a fairly recent innovation. Journalism programs were not introduced to universities until the late 1860′s and the first true journalism schools were only begun in the 1890′s. This would mean that most of the news recorded in the long history of well … history, was done by those who would be considered amateurs by such standards.
Certainly no one would argue the advantages provided by a structured education in journalism, and that formal training for an aspiring writer on how to gather the who, what, when, where, and why of a story has value. There is no guarantee that such training will produce a good journalist however, let alone a talented one. Such training can only provide tools for the proper gathering of news and the interpretation of it as opinion.
As we have seen far too often in some what fulfills this role in Toledo, the rules of professional conduct and the lines between news and opinion can be breached by those with such training just as easily as those without. Some still selectively choose the facts they report in a given story and even more selectively choose the stories they will report. In doing so, it would seem they violate the very principles they claim distinguish them as professionals in their field.
Many similar discussions come up when we are asked to chose between experienced politicians and those seeking elected office for the first time. Since there is in fact no equivalent to journalism school for politics, those running for election cannot claim special education as qualification for professional status and instead inform us that those best suited to hold political office are those who have already done so.
There does appears to be an alternate method of qualification to such direct experience in politics however. According to some, apparently being married or related to someone who has previously held office can serve in place of such experience. In what some might consider a twisted version of the “nature vs. nurture” argument often used to debate explanations for other types of behavioral predilections (usually criminal), it seems that both appear to provide the necessary alternate qualifications for elected office.
As with the concept of journalism, this is not to say that experience (whether gained first or second hand) is not an advantage. Such exposure or experience however is likewise only a tool to be used, and does not necessarily make the holder a good elected representative or a good leader. It could further be pointed out that being governed by a privileged class of “professional politicians” could be considered a form of Aristocracy, a concept that we abandoned with the founding of this country.
One can certainly understand the desire of some professional jounalists to minimize competition in their industry, threatened as they are by the diminishing job opportunities and a changing concept of media. Perhaps some of the less talented examples in the profession even require such protection in order to continue working.
It is likewise understandable that some political professionals are concerned by the influx of potentially talented, but untried competition (for the same reason). As they attempt to make us believe that experience is the equivalent of ability however, it might best be remembered that many of these experienced politicians created the very problems that those on both sides now hope will be corrected in the next election cycle.
If history should have taught us anything about these two critical responsibilities however, it is that we can no longer leave either of them to those whose only qualification for the job is that they call themselves professionals.
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