Many years ago, at my then blog and later on Blackfive, I wrote a series of posts about what it would take to save modern journalism. In that series, I went into a number of symptoms that had taken journalism from any semblance of fair and balanced into pure advocacy. While the Camelot-like myth of an unbiased media is just that, it used to be that real journalists would occasionally do real journalism.
The problem is, I was focused on the symptoms rather than the root cause of the symptoms. While I am not the first to say this, I have come to think that journalism died when it became a profession, rather than a trade. In days gone by, journalism was not a respectable profession. The portrayal of low-income, not socially acceptable to high society, hard working, hard drinking, and somewhat disreputable (to highly disreputable) portrayals of the media in film noir and beyond was in many ways more accurate than those in the field would have liked.
While there were always exceptions, they were just that. Even some of those exceptions were not as portrayed; rather, they were creations to give a veneer of respectability to both the trade and to the news being disseminated.
I was fortunate to have been trained by some of those who were legend in the days when it was a trade rather than a profession. My first journalism professor was representative of the movie caricature, down to a bottle of booze in a lower desk drawer. Some of the rules of writing still are drilled into me, such as the proper use of “over” versus “more-than” which he taught by the explanation of ‘I have a brick over your head, that weighs more than x pounds. When I drop it on your head for using over, it will hurt.’ Humorous then, likely to get him reprimanded or disciplined today because to snowflakes, it’s a threat.
Looking at things, I’m not sure that any like Mike Royko, Darryl Feldmeir, or Les Brownlee (who set a number of milestones as a black journalist) could find work in the field today. Today, you have to have a four year degree to get started as a “serious” journalist. To truly get ahead, at least a Master’s degree.
And there lies the problem. Our universities provide and demand lockstep indoctrination and obedience to a certain political thought. Increasingly, if you hold a different view, you are shunned. The net result is that while newsrooms might contain every color and multiple genders, they lack almost any ideological diversity outside a very narrow progressive spectrum. Don’t believe me? Take a look at what is going on inside the New York Times (where the spirit of Duranty lives!) right now with the battles between staff and management, or even within the publishing field where the lower level staffers are revolting over the publication of conservative (or even moderate) books.
Can Pvt. Journalism still be saved? Perhaps. I see real journalism happening, even at risk of life and reputation, in the independent media. People like Andy Ngo, Sharyl Attkisson, and organizations like Newsmax give me some hope. However, before they can be truly effective, what passes for the mainstream media will have to crash and burn and/or new media outlets dedicated to real journalism be created and flourish. I see the start of the latter, and am watching the growing fires and explosions within the “old” mainstream media growing. What comes of it remains to be seen, especially since Big Tech and establishment politicians are doing all they can to shore up the ‘right’ type of outlets despite the growing problems.
That said, until there are more organizations like Newsmax and they have real viewership, journalism is dead. Again, others have said it before, but if Trump and others are smart, they will start news organizations and means of distribution (like Parler and Rumble) to bypass the censorious Big Tech and get the word out to the broadest possible audience. Note that such efforts are being fought tooth and nail, and both Big Tech and the media devote a large amount of time to trying to paint such efforts as racist, allowing hate speech, and other double-plus-ungood things. Such efforts rightly terrify them (and those in the establishment political class), and they will stop at nothing to destroy them. Indeed, I expect to see actual physical means used as well to literally harm or kill those behind such efforts. Yes, I’m serious as political assassination was a tool in this last election, though the media did its best to not cover such things.
To save Pvt. Journalism, who — like the Republic — may be dead in many respects, means making use of the “golden hour” for revival. It will take funds and, frankly, more courage than I think many may have. It’s one thing to be fearless for yourself, but when family and friends are threatened and attacked (as has happened) in a variety of means physical, fiscal, and beyond… All we can do is do what we can as individuals to either create such efforts or support them as best we can. Oh, and it would be good to make journalism into an honest trade, rather than a dishonest profession.