Is journalism a profession? Part two: Maybe not.

After I posted part one, I got some thoughtful comments from Brian Fuller and Loring Wirbel affirming the professional status of Journalists. There are several definitions of profession on the web and
they all have three common denominators: the existence of a well-known,
codified and enforceable statement of ethics, an educational requirement, and a
licensing body.



The accounting profession has all three and, to a certain
degree, so professional sports. In the US, the American Medical Association and
the American Bar Association require all three for practice and on separate
levels from state to state.



Journalism does not have an educational requirement, nor is
there a licensing requirement.
  There
are several ethical codes that are similar to one another. Society for
Professional Journalism has one (that I helped create) that was published in
1973, the same year that the American League adopted the designated hitter
rule.
  In fact there are 13
separate codes nationally and dozens more regionally.
  Unfortunately, not many journalists can quote any of them,
including the ethics espoused by their organization.
  Doctors, lawyers and accountants can recite theirs easily.  In fact, I would imagine with all the
doctor and lawyer shows on TV most of us have a good idea what medical and
legal ethics are.
  But I doubt the
layperson knows any less about journalism ethics than a professional
journalist.



What I have found over the past few months is that
journalism has a greater resemblance to a trade, rather than a profession.
  Most trades have unions, established
pay scales and a high degree of mobility for tradesmen.
  They are supposed to be bound by
ethical standards, but we all know to check out any tradesmen before
contracting with them because the ethics are there primarily to protect the
tradesman.



There is a journalism union, called the Newspaper Guild but
most journalists are not members because the guild is not widely accepted among
the media industry. Guild members get much higher pay than non members, which
means non-members will usually work for much lower pay.
  That reduces the power of the guild but
that's common among unions today anyway.



Journalists tend to move around quite a bit, especially
lately, and in the past few years, freelance work tends to be more lucrative than
working on a publication., Freelancers are also more willing to
"bend" ethics, at least as long as they don't have bylines but the do
have pride in their work so you can generally rely on the quality of their
work.



In fact, if you look in the newsrooms of most publications
around the US, you'll see a lot of fresh, young faces who are looking forward
to reaching a journeyman status that can make a living as a freelancer.
  Much of the editorial community in tech
right now are freelancers and working for multiple publications.
  They are like modern-day Ronin.  Brand new journalists can't really
command the kind of work a seasoned veteran can get. 

So to end this part I would like to propose that there really is no such thing as the journalism profession.  We are either salaried workers or tradespeople. The question is, what is better for us and the rest or the world.  We'll get started on that in part three.