J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

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

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?

2 Responses to “The “Deprofessionalization” of Journalism?”

  1. McChris said

    When you ask if journalism is being deprofessionalized, are you just pointing out the increasing popularity of participatory media or are you suggesting that journalists working within institutional media contexts are seeing their training and credentials devalued?

    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.

  2. Barbara Saunders said

    With regards to McChris’ comment. As I see it, one problem is that when “barriers to participate” in organizations, news and otherwise, get raised, the new hoops presented are not in line with what it would take to improve actual quality. For example, requiring that journalists have academic master’s degrees creates a great market for schools (even those with easy, bad programs) and shuts out prospective journalists based on their lack of ability to pay tuition or spare the years for formal schooling.

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