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Posted by on Jun 29, 2008 in Media | 0 comments

Washington & “Courtiers”: Who Is A “Real” Journalist?

media ethics

As a young journalist I was once reminded that a journalist could either be a watchdog or a lapdog, can’t be both. Journalism, like other professions, has undergone a visible “change” in the past three decades. There was a time when many considered it a vocation (a calling), but now it is being increasingly treated as a mere job in any other industry.

Shaun Mullen’s earlier post on TV personality Tim Russert evoked interesting comments in TMV. Who is a real journalist? Can he survive in the changed world and the present media industry/culture? I have to battle with these tough questions often during my lectures on media/journalism.

A friend in India, Sanjay Sethi, draws my attention to a piece by Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, who is a Senior Fellow at the Nation Institute. Hedges latest book is Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians.

To take the discussion further, let’s see what Hedges wrote: “The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year…No journalist makes $5 million a year.

“No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists. Ask Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman how often Bush or Cheney has invited them to dinner at the White House or offered them an interview.

“All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, and it is the job of the journalist to do the hard, tedious reporting to shine a light on these lies. It is the job of courtiers, those on television playing the role of journalists, to feed off the scraps tossed to them by the powerful and never question the system…” More here…

In keeping with the changing times, who knows journalists may soon be known as media workers (belonging, as they do, to the second oldest profession in the world). This would be in line with the change in name in the oldest profession in the world — from prostitute to sex workers…. 🙂