Journalists and journalism is overrated.
In news related to that self-evident truth, it turns out that journalists are really, really bad about understanding the theoretical issues of journalism. Media Watch, on the ABC, is perhaps the best opportunity to discuss the philosophy and theory of journalism. Why does journalism exist? Is journalism a form of entertainment or is it something more? What should be the relationship between the State and the Press? &c., &c., &c.
For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much) Jonathan Holmes does a particularly poor job of grappling with these issues. He is particularly bad when discussing issues about the intersection of law and the press but, as I pointed out in New Matilda, he gets flat out weird when talking about freedom of speech.
Thumbing through my copy of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law by Mark Pearson (a standard and very widely used text by Australian journalists), I think I’ve discovered the reason journalists are so stupid about journalism.
Journalists are sometimes called upon to defend their freedoms against those who are critical of the media and its operations. To remain silent when a politician or a judge is proposing censorship of those freedoms is to contribute to their erosion. [Souce: Pearson, M. The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law, p. 25]
The quote comes after an asinine account of the separation of powers and immediately before an extremely unbalanced account of why freedom of expression is the liberty par excellence.
We can’t have a reasonable conversation about the role of the media when they are indoctrinated to believe that their ideology is default-rational. It’s like trying to convince Lois XIV that there’s no divine right of kings. Not only will he refuse to believe you (‘Isn’t it obvious that there’s a divine right of kings? My intuition says that it is obvious, therefore it is.’) but he has the power to destroy you if you might be successful in threatening the dominant ideology. Similarly, journalists refuse to believe you that press freedom is in anyway important (it’s not) and will rip your reputation apart if you even tried to make the point. Worse, we rely on mainstream journalism to present both sides of an argument; they are hardly going to print something which contradicts their intuitions.
It’s time for journalist reeducation camps.