It’s Sunday morning and I just finished a new ritual of mine, scrolling through the news on the internet. I’ve been doing this for the past few months and am becoming convinced that journalism, as it used to be known, is now dead. When I was a younger man in college about 50 years ago, I majored in Communications with a minor in what was then called Journalism. I sat through cases in Common Pleas Court to complete assignments on news reporting. Not only clearly describing the facts, the who, what, where, when, and why of each case, but painting the picture of the hearings themselves such as the work of the opposing attorneys, the way the judge handled the trial, etc. Anything other than the facts, as Joe Friday used to say, would be reason for a reduced score on my reports from the professor.
Ah, Journalism, what a noble profession I thought. One instructor, a former political beat reporter covering Washington D.C. for the Philadelphia Inquirer, shared with us some issues surrounding then Sen. John Kennedy that never made it to the headlines. The stories were of his questionable private life and the women he was often seen with. Our teacher shared this was never in any political stories as private lives were not the job of a reporter back then. Only several years later did we find out the truth he shared with us, as scandalous stories of the late president became public knowledge. But journalism was different back then. Ethics was a cornerstone of the profession, and one was taught that your job was to just report the news. Your opinion was just that, your opinion, and you should never be part of your reporting.
And now look at this once noble profession. Today every story is headlined with an opinion, the writer’s opinion. And we wonder why we have such division in our country. Using the term journalism, or even journalist today is insulting to those past journalists. Gone are the Edward R. Murrows, the Walter Cronkites, and the many great journalists that covered world events. They are no longer journalists today, instead they have become influencers, sadly now akin to teen magazine writers.
Universities should change the name of these schools to the School of Influencing, as anything else is now just a cheap sideshow and insult to what was once Journalism.