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June 09, 2005

The Religion of Journalism (and the Conservative Revolution)

There's an excellent post by one Jay Rosen about The Watergate Myth and it's influence on the religion of journalism. It's a somewhat lengthy read, but it's entertaining, bordering on fascinating, and an easy read (your eyes will glide along the words like a train down mountain rails). The Watergate Myth is that reporters brought down a president, while the reality is that it was "the agencies of government itself" which explosed the truth (--Edward J. Epstein, 1974).

The Religion of Journalism preaches the faith that the role of "the free press" is to be an essential check on government:

In his excellent book, Watergate and American Memory (1992, Basic) Michael Schudson distinguishes between the scandal, which didn't change the world very much, and the myth of Watergate in journalism. By giving the warrant of history, and the mandate of heaven, to the adversarial press, and the Fourth Estate model (where the press is an essential check on government, a modern addition to the balance of powers); by telling each new crop of journalists how to be heroes and how do good; by glamorizing the underworld of confidential sources, the mythos of Watergate had very definite effects in journalism.

But the world is getting better. One Darryl McGrath wrote early this year the following:

I would tell the dean that this business does not know what to do with career reporters, the people in their 40s who realized years ago they were never going to make it to the New York Times or win a Pulitzer, but nevertheless loved chasing stories and exposing public corruption and giving a voice to the downtrodden. (Yes, I'm still that idealistic.) We are the journalists who never wanted to move into the higher-paying jobs, like editing and management or newsroom Internet technology, because we absolutely loved being reporters. But as we got older, we realized that very few newspapers wanted to pay a salary that would allow us to continue doing what we do best: report. The journalism school did little to prepare me for this reality.

A respondent, Hugh Hewitt, responded to her in his own piece about her complaint of poor pay:

In other words, it doesn't pay enough to be a professional lefty activist, er, reporter. People get bitter as a result.

Why doesn't it pay enough? Because the marketplace doesn't want that product. Will MSM's rank and file ever figure it out that their own vision of themselves is delusional? Sure, they can tell each other how noble are their efforts, how invaluable their "exposes," but the only reliable measure is the marketplace, and "professional journalism" of the MSM variety is on the ropes. The customer isn't interested. The reality is that journalists don't matter all that much --and consequently aren't paid all that much-- because ordinary Americans aren't waiting with rapt attention in anticipation of being told what to think.... [All emphasis mine. --VC]

And that's the beauty of the world today. The "lefties" lock on the media grows less and less every day, while the marketplace (that's you and me) grow less and less lefty every day. Just as heads of Marxism and Leninism were relegated to the ash heap of history nearly two decades ago, the rest of communism and its ideology is dying, like the dying bodies of headless chickens, and being forgotten.

This is new.

And FOX News is new.

And the breadth of the conservative voice in American government is new (it hasn't been seen since the 1920s).

And democracies in the middle east are new.

It truly is getting better, a little better, all the time.

Posted by Jeff at June 9, 2005 06:26 PM

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