Professionalizing the News

by Jack Rooney

I can’t help but think of journalists as professionals. It has literally an idea that has been with me my entire life. I forget if I’ve mentioned this in class before, but my father is a journalist and he has acted as professionalism embodied for as long as I have looked to him as an example. Even in a neighborhood where you see the democratic precinct captain at Sunday mass, my front lawn has never featured a campaign sign. My dad has turned down gifts and stories because they could harm his objectivity and credibility. He is one of my inspirations for becoming a journalist, and his consummate and constant professionalism has given me what I like to think of as a solid foundation for my potential future career.

That being said, this chapter opened my eyes (to some extent) to the era in which professionalism took hold and become the norm in journalism. Though journalism will never be seen in the same light as professions such as law and medicine, as this chapter discusses, this era made journalism a more professional industry than the over-sensationalized business of Pulitzer and Hearst. The notion of licensing journalist seems instinctively wrong, but it was not until Daley pointed out the first amendment implications of licensing journalists that I realized the reason the United States does not require journalists to meet a certain professional standard.

The advent of journalism schools also points to the distinct professionalization of journalism at this time, and it says something that it was Robert E. Lee who helped start the first efforts at a journalism school (I just haven’t decided what exactly it says). And although I am studying journalism, I found the preference Daly noted for experience over academia in journalism. Last semester, Professor Ciccone told us that, in his humble opinion, journalism graduate school is far less worthwhile than newsroom experience.

My final takeaway from this chapter was the role of World War I in the development of journalism. The “Great War” indeed had a great influence on journalism and the way the government handles information with regard to the “fourth estate” of the media. War tends to create extraordinary domestic circumstances as well, but the news always fights to tell the whole story of the war (more recent examples such as Vietnam and both Gulf wars show the ability of the news to tell the story right from the front lines).

Overall, this era seems to me, more than the other time periods we have examined in Daly, the most influential in bringing about journalism as we know it today: a legitimate industry with professional, dedicated workers.