A few months ago I did a series on the state of marketing
and the fallacies that continue to pull technology into financial doldrums. With the changes going on in media I
thought it might be a good idea to focus some time on the profession of
journalism because, frankly, I've been asking myself recently: Is journalism a
So I've been spending some time in preparing this series by going
through the history of US journalism and have found that journalism, as a
profession, is a recent phenomenon.
From the time of the itinerant troubadours and storytellers
to widespread use of printing presses in the 1700s, journalism consisted mostly
of literary attempts, first-person narratives and outright slander. From the late 1700s through the 1800s,
journalism in the United States and England, was focused on maintaining the
status quo; supporting incumbent administrations and legislative bodies,
encouraging partisanship and making newpaper owners rich and powerful.
The first hints of real investigative journalism did not
appear until the early 1900s and not in newspapers, but in books by muckrakers
like Sinclair Lewis. It wasn't
until World War I that writers paid to report news actually tried to report
what was happening, primarily because what was real was so horrific that it
almost defied human understanding, even then the reporting was highly personal. The general populace ate it up because
that personal side told their story.
The media became a champion of the people.
Objective journalism became substantial in World War II were
led by radio reports from journalism giants like Walter Cronkite, and the 1950s
through the 1970s was the golden age of journalism. The craft became a legitimate area of study in universities
around the world. One of the first
was at San Jose State founded by Dwight Bentel (my mentor in the early days of
my career). During this time journalists
became recognized as some of the most trusted people in the world and newsrooms
began to grow in size and influence.
The rank and file reporter could be of any particular political bent but
it would be difficult to find what that inclination was from the reporting.
In the early 70s, however, a media outlet's political
leanings was much more obvious.
Organizations started cropping up with the goal of measuring media
bias. Whereas the media pre-1950
was a protector of the status quo, the media post 1975 identified itself as a
protector of the common people.
Unfortunately, most of the nation was still relatively conservative,
especially those who could be considered "common." It was during this time, as the media
was at the height of its trustworthiness that it began pushing the idea of
professionalism among its ranks.
next post in this series, we'll take a look at the definitions of
professionalism, how they are applied to journalism and the events in history
that have affected the professionalism.