Editor: It's Time for Media to Remind People 'Journalism Is a Noble Profession'

The magazine Editor & Publisher posted a "rally around the media flag" post by Tim Gallagher, a former newspaper executive in Albuquerque. It began: "Everyone from George Washington to Vince Lombardi has used a variation of 'The best defense is a good offense.' Maybe it’s time for journalism to drop its defensiveness and go on the offensive."

That's rich: To the degree the media are on defense, it's because they've been on relentless, punishing offense, a complete abdication of the venerable old notion that reporters should report, and not opine. Then Gallagher drew a cartoon:

The popular theory is that “the media” is a black magic cabal whose members meet regularly to shake its secret handshake, ties its socks in inverted knots before tossing them into a bonfire and then decide “the liberal media agenda.” Survey after survey shows that the public believes we are biased and display a bias when we report the news. And now the most powerful official in America is reinforcing these beliefs.

Those who have worked inside newsrooms know that while there is often “group think” that needs to be challenged, most journalists are ethical, independent and are proud of working in an industry that helps strengthen American democracy.

Isn't it a little late -- after two years of Trump-trashing -- to mock the idea of a "cabal" twisting the news in a negative way? It's not just Trump that's reinforcing belief in a liberal bias. It's the "news" product, day after day, hour after hour, now talking about which method would do best to remove Trump from his democratically elected position. You don't need to believe in a secret cabal to notice we have a press mob now calling for Trump's presidency to be ended, and ended quickly.

Let's guess the media liberals would respond: "We wouldn't be a 'noble profession' if we weren't opposing this budding tyrant with every fiber of our being!" Okay, but then you're not independent, and you need to stop that notion that everything you write is defined as "strengthening American democracy."

The headline was "It’s Time to Remind Readers That Journalism is a Noble Profession." The profession of journalism is noble in theory -- objective reporters seek the public good by investigating how the government operates and how politicians behave -- but the actual practitioners are not always noble in their motives or their practices. Gallagher insisted "The antiseptic life of journalists would shock many Americans," and made a weird list of journalistic behavior that is somehow banned:

-- "Engage in political activity either by participating in rallies or donating money." That is not banned. It's uncommon, but it happens. Think of George Stephanopoulos and Judy Woodruff donating to the Clinton Foundation. These donations also a bit related to another supposedly "banned" activitiy:  "Serve on a nonprofit board doing community good if that service would affect your news coverage or editorial writing."

-- "Accept an honorarium while speaking to a group that has a political agenda and tries to influence you" and "Keep an arm’s length relationship with any member of the public (including influential news makers) who might try to influence your news coverage.​" Dozens of journalists have accepted speaking or moderating roles in the Clinton Foundation's Global Initiative conferences...they weren't paid, but that's hardly an "arm's length relationship." They brought the glamour of their position to building the appeal of the Clinton confab.

-- "Take even the slightest bit of information from another writer without properly acknowledging it." That's simply bizarre. Outright plagiarism is discouraged, but borrowing "slightest bits" from other reporters is not uncommon at all.​

Gallagher concluded: "If only we could take our readers on a ride-along to show them that this is an important and even noble profession. But we will not win their trust by trying to outshout our opponents. We’ll win by convincing them that journalists work hard, honestly and without improper influence. We need to go on the offensive."

It might be implausible to say the media shouldn't try to "outshout our opponents." Conservatives who don't own major newspapers or TV networks might recommend to Gallagher that old warning "don't pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." The media elite has far more power to "outshout" their critics using the properties they own. 

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