My family is one of businessmen and business ladies. My grandfather was a longtime employer for Gillette, my father has worked in investment banking for more than 20 years now, and my sister has just earned her CPA after graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a Masters in accounting.
Let’s just say when we all sat around the dinner table for Thanksgiving this past Thursday, journalism was the last thing anyone was thinking about, besides me.
My sister, Sarah, doesn’t live at home anymore so my grandfather is always curious as to how she’s doing; if she has anyone special in her life, how work is going, and overall, her life in general. She responded with a work-related answer, telling him how fortunate she was that her firm accepted her even before she had earned her CPA license, something that many students struggle with after college in trying to find work.
This of course sprouted another conversation, on how one of our cousins has just finished law school, and cannot find a job. As the talk went on, I found myself not focused on the actual conversation at hand, but rather a whole other topic all together.
I thought to myself, how come there isn’t a test to become a journalist? I mean, it only seems logical, right? If there’s an exam that needs to be passed to become an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor, or a teacher, how come there isn’t an exam to become a journalist?
This is a topic that has been brought up in more than one of my classes this semester, yet hasn’t really been discussed upon at length. Over the past decade or so, in particular with the rapid success of the Internet, more people than ever before are writing. It doesn’t take much to let your opinion be heard. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can set up his or her own blog and begin writing about anything he or she pleases, for the whole world to see.
It’s truly a tremendous privilege to have, yet many feel this right has become abused as of late. While some bloggers do their own fair share of reporting and put out good content, there are some blogs that offer nothing more than an opinion I could have heard from someone at the local bar. There is no substance, and the content is purely subjective, nothing else.
I understand the concern of many of those people out there, however, I believe they are missing the point. No, I don’t believe blogging is journalism, but it is certainly a start for many up-and-coming reporters. Blogging should be used as a tool to sharpen the skill needed as a journalist. It’s a place to offer your opinion, possibly get blasted for it, and then refine your writing in a way that displays your thought process in ultimately coming to the decision you came to.
It’s nothing more than that, and it doesn’t need to be anything more than that.
I recently read an article by Jay Rosen about the “view from no where,” and his outright disdain for it. It suggests that,
“Human beings are, in fact, capable of stepping back from their position to gain an enlarged understanding, which includes the more limited view they had before the step back.”
In other words, journalists should expect to be objective in their reporting, in order to “portray a consciousness of the world more fully.”
Rosen rejects this statement, claiming, and I agree,
“Because it has unearned authority in the American press. If in doing the serious work of journalism–digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat–you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority. It may even add to it.”
Journalists are going to create their own opinions through their reporting no matter how hard they try, and they shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Journalists are doing the digging, reporting and verification for a reason, to become a master on the subject so that he or she can write a good report on it. If in the process, an opinion is thrown out into the article, than so-be it. If the reporter has graduated from journalism school, taken the journalism test, and has years of experience as a reporter, that opinion is warranted.
Wait. But there is no test.
This is exactly what defines the problem that has been developing for years now in the field of journalism. Bloggers want to be considered journalists, journalists think bloggers have no right to be considered such; it’s a complete mess. A journalistic exam would rid of this controversy. You want the title of a journalist, great, pass the exam.
As I said earlier, if there’s a test to become a lawyer, doctor or teacher, there’s no reason there shouldn’t be one to become a journalist. It’s one in the same.
This way, certified journalists would have the privilege of writing objectively, but not feel uncomfortable in offering an opinion on a subject the he or she just spent weeks or months on covering.
The test would also ensure the validity of bloggers. Bloggers are supposed to write subjectively. It’s the blogger’s opinions and creative way of thinking that, we, as readers visit their blogs for. Take Barstool Sports for example. No one goes to Barstool to read an article of informed analysis on his or her favorite sports team. They go to Barstool to be entertained. Take their headliner from over the weekend,
The self-proclaimed writer, El Prez, is a widely known avid Michigan fan. The predication is ridiculous, yet entertaining, as he even offers some insight as to why Michigan would ultimately beat Ohio State (undefeated) by 83 points.
So, no, bloggers “certainly are not committed to being objective,” as managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review’s online CJR Daily, Steve Lovelady, points out. But it doesn’t matter. Bloggers are bloggers and reporters are reporters, yet there is no clear-cut way in distinguishing the two as far as who is a journalist and who is not. It’s a problem that needs to be fixed, and needs to be fixed now so that the world of journalism can be at peace. A journalistic examination may just be the solution to this war of words between reporters and bloggers.