Today we have a rare tag team Comment of the Day: JutGory raised the provocative ethics issue of what constitutes a profession and whether journalism qualifies, and Rich in Ct, who has been on fire of late, responded with a sharp analysis.
This was all especially propitious, since the I had a dispute with my legal ethics teaching partner during our (very well-received) “Crossfire”-style seminars last week on just this question. He maintains that it is a a myth to pretend that a profession like the the law is called such for any reason other than the fact lawyers engage in it for compensation. Well, he’s wrong. Professions are not merely occupations, but pursuits one undertakes for the good of society. That is why the hallmark of professionals is that they are trusted and trustworthy, and why their compensation is of secondary priority. The desire for profit undermines professionalism by creating conflicts of interest.
My answer to the question posed by JutGory is that journalism must be a profession, because the public must be able to trust journalists for journalism to benefit society. However presents day journalists are driven by motivations far removed from the public good: their personal political agendas, the pursuit of fame and power, and the love of money. It can be a professiona, and should be a profession, but as currently practiced, it isn’t a profession.
Here are JutGory’s and Rich in Ct.’s Comments of the Day on the “profession of journalism” thread in the post, “Open Forum, Or ‘I Guess I Picked The Wrong Time To Start Driving All Over Virginia!’”
First, here’s JutGory…
Can journalism be a profession?
My profession, law, has a set of ethical rules. It is a club, and it is self-regulating. Is it self-regulating? Yeah. My state gets about 1000 complaints per year, and about 10 percent each year get disciplined. Every year, you get a handful of disbarments. Not overbearing but I know a lawyer who got a 60-day suspension for a “non-legal” infraction and basically threw in the towel. I can empathize. It is like being accused of a crime; it can be hard to deal with. And, you are held to standards.
The press? You can’t be de-pressed? Dis-presses? Unimpressed?
In a free society, with a free press, can you have a profession where there is no way to regulate its participants.
A shorter way to ask the question: can the press be a true profession if Dan Rather can’t be barred from the profession?
Similar question for teaching. The wrinkle with teaching: can a profession governed by labor unions really enforce ethical standards and discipline?
Rich in Ct’s response…