J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

Archive for October, 2005

Radicals in the Professions: Does Anyone Remember this One?

Posted by chanders on October 21, 2005

So … if a lot of what I’ve been writing about for the last few years can be described (on some level) as a "professional project," than can we assume that there are competing groups fighting over who gets to define themselves as "professional"? … and that there are some groups who are trying to deprofessionalize, or at least reprofessionalize a certain occupational field? It seems so. If not, where’s the struggle? Andie Tucher talks about how one of the outcomes of the self-mythologizing of the "bohemian brigade" was to exclude journalistis of a certain class status; Zelizer about how TV journalists managed to define themselves as the empowered retellers of the Kennedy assasination narrative (to the exclusion of amateurs / movie makers); Friedson notes how the professionalization of medicine excluded apothecaries, etc.

The problem is that, in most of the mainstream professionalization literature in sociology, there’s very little about the groups that eventually ended up on the "outside" of the profession once all was said and done. Although the professional project is described (in one sense) as a struggle, in another sense, its also describing a somewhat "inevitable march" towards professional group  respectability. Or at least,  as much of this scholarship is historical, it comes off that way in hindsight once we get to the end of the story.

So, we have to look elsewhere for more deep thinking about the conflict I see going on here. Todd Gitlin, perhaps recaling his attendance at the 1967 SDS "Radicals in the Professions" conference, reccomended I check out the post-mortem scholarly exegesis of this phase of the student movement. Problem is, there’s not much I could find. Here’s what Google Scholar has to say; JSTOR isn’t much better (though there’s one hilarious review by a young Michael Schudson of a book called Professions for the people : the politics of skill.) Hmm.

So then a little bell went off in the back of my head … wasn’t there a section in my Fall 2003 Social Movements class about activist challenges to the "scientific establishment" and the catholic church? Sure enough, there is was, on Week Five– "Movements and Non-State Institutions" (lets hear it for saving old sylabi!)  Francesca Polletta, who taught the class, also reccomended The New Political Sociology of Science: Institutions, Networks, and Power by Kelly Moore. Ah!! Success!! There’s also a bunch of stuff on the sylabus that I would have to track down, including what looks like a really important article by D.A. Snow (in a book that costs $95.00 [ick!] Here’s what my class notes say:

"is it easier or harder to challenge state or non-state actors? lines of power being blurry in non-state institutions? … Two analytical tactics: 1) How is protest within non-state institutions different? 2) They’re not so different and understanding once can help with understanding the other … ‘mass defection.’ etc. etc." "Focus to exclusively on the state. Snow’s challenge is a very new one. Line of research is wide open."

Of course, what I’m talking about with the bloggers isn’t really a social movement. So I’m looking at something that’s not really a social movement, and thats not really journalism, intersecting with something thats not really a profession. Hmmm. (hint: this last comment may have something to do with the previous post below this one.)

Posted in Projects: Random Musings | 1 Comment »

In Orbit

Posted by chanders on October 21, 2005

Random thought after attending  "Re-Reading Personal Influence: Retrospects and Prospects 50 Years Later" conference: I live on accademic planet Mars. Take that for what you will.

Posted in Personal | Leave a Comment »

The Struggle Over the Professional Project

Posted by chanders on October 20, 2005

McChris comments on my post "The Deprofessionalization of Journalism":

"I could certainly see how the rise of blogs, wikis, etc. actually
catalyze a renewed professionalization of institutional journalism. Now
that people read blogs highly critical of the media and controversies
around figures like Dan Rather and Judy Miller raise questions about
newsgathering, the profession could react by cranking up the
discipline, raising the barriers to participate in news organizations.
The institutional players will want to distinguish themselves from
folks who don’t write the news for fun."

I actually totally agree. In fact, I think what we will be witnessing over the next few years is a battle over the concept of the journalistic profession. One advantage to looking at the whole grassroots  / mainstream journalism phenomenon as a "professional project" is that it calls attention to the very real ways in which social groups struggle over the ability to define themselves as "professional people" (and their field as a "profession") with all the accompanying social advantages therin.

Just one off the cuff example of what I mean: the current battle over the journalistic shield law in the US Congress. Couldn’t we view the law as being as much of an attempt  to more formally define the boundaries of the journalistic field as it is an attempt to enable journalists to keep confidential sources? Bloggers worry that the law will mean creating two-tiers of journalism. That may be exactly the point.

Posted in Projects: Random Musings | Leave a Comment »

C. Wright Mills Says: Keep A Journal (Is this One)?

Posted by chanders on October 20, 2005

So I reread the Appendix to The Socioogical Imagination again, "On Intellectual Craftsmanship," by C. Wright Mills, and it reminded me of why I started this blog in the first place: "keep a journal," Mills says. I can certain see why he says so; when one is more or less thinking all the time, thoughts tend to flit in and out of the brain so fast that you feel like you’re missing a ton of good stuff as you move across the day.

In honor of the essay, I’ve renamed my weblog categories so as to more accurately reflect his advice to graduate students. The topics now include: agenda, projects, and personal, as well as current events and links to non-academic essays.

Posted in Agenda | Leave a Comment »

The “Deprofessionalization” of Journalism?

Posted by chanders on October 9, 2005

Thousands of commentators, both on- and offline, have cut at the relationship between new forms of digital, particpatory media and mainstream journalism, in hundreds of ways.  Surprisingly, while many have asked the question "is blogging journalism?" and others have replied that "blogging versus journalism is over", few have asked if we are witnessing a fundamental "deprofessionalization" of journalism due to the emergence of blogs, hyperlocal journalism, citizens media, indymedia, etc. (a google search for "deprofessionalization of journalism" returns less than than 10 results, while a search for "is blogging journalism" turns up 723).

There are several possible explanations for this. The first is that the sociological literature on "the professions" is a vast one and constitutes a veritible subfield within sociology. A second reason might be that journalism represents a very odd profession (indeed, some would argue, a failed profession) and thus exploring the collapse of a not-quite-ever-really a profession is even more difficult.

Nevertheless, the question is a good one to ask. Indeed, if James Carey wrote of "the rise of the professional communicator" and Everett C. Hughes inquired as to "the circumstances in which people in an occupation attempt to turn it into a profession and themselves into professional people," we might flip the questions on their head:

* Are we witnessing the deprofessionalization of journalism?
* What are the circumstances in which people outside or inside an occupation attempt to turn it from  a profession into something else?
* If sociologists speak easily of a professional project can we speak of a deprofessionalization project?

Posted in Agenda | 2 Comments »