What’s A Journalist?

There’s been a running dialogue going this week on Facebook between a contributor named Mike Burke and some other members of the community over the terms “journalist”and “journalism.”

Burke feels that bias has crept into journalism and he puts part of the blame for that on those who are given space for opinions and observations rather than just reporting “he said/she said” or “the President/mayor/police chief said.”

Here’s his complaint: ” Education and experience do not in my mind make a journalist. Honoring journalism fundamentals which demand objectivity and strict avoidance of personal bias separate a true journalist from a mere poser offering personal opinions. I reserve my identification of a professional journalist to those who actually practice journalism, not “my tens cents” opining. For useful opinions, I rely on experts in a particular field. You are not an expert in any subject, as far as I can tell. It’s not all that difficult for readers to tell the difference.”

I’m the first to admit that some crappy reporting has crept into daily journalism. Actually, I should say that some crappy reporting has been around since the time of the Penny Papers in the American Colonies!

Where the “my ten cents opining” is concerned, newspapers and TV often use journalists or others with long experience in politics, military affairs, medicine, etc. to share their thoughts (opinions) on difficult subjects. The key is to make sure the journalist has the background (mine is in 64 years of local, national and international reporting) to have a valid opinion to offer. There are small helpful things: a medical-issues journalist brings more heft to his/her opinion if he/she has a medical degree. I have a law degree.

Most newspapers try to run a variety of opinions. MidWeek was especially consistent on that. You got me and Dan Boylan, but also Michelle Malkin and Pat Buchanan.


So read a variety and then make up your own mind.

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

2 replies on “What’s A Journalist?”

  1. You have a law degree. Should I defer to your opinion on all matters concerning the law?
    I have a degree in Political Science. Will you defer to my opinion on all matters concerning politics?

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