Merrill’s Arguments in “the Professionalization of Journalism” Against Professionalizing Journalism

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Merrill’s arguments in “The Professionalization of Journalism” against professionalizing journalism

What is a profession? The Oxford English Dictionary defines professions as that way of life/manner of making a living that involves the application of a specialized knowledge of particular subjects, field, or science to fee-paying clientele. Examples of professions include nursing, architecture, medicine and engineering.

Although journalism has some characteristics of a profession, for Merrill it cannot be considered a profession due to the fact that journalists do not have a direct relationship with their clients, there are no entry requirements and they do not follow a prescribed code of ethics or a standard way by which their behavior is judged against/regulated. Also, Merrill asserts that journalists do not possess one specialized body of knowledge but rather command many disciplines. If journalists came from only one shared common knowledge, this would restrict the perspectives, conduct and values of their work. Merrill believes that while the professionalization of journalism does deter unprofessional practices, university journalism programs aimed at creating set standard journalistic practices “squash creativity and inquisitiveness” in the budding journalist.

For Merrill, if journalists were organized into a self regulating professional body, they would turn increasingly inward and be more concerned about protecting their self-interests than the interests of citizens.

American journalists believe that one day journalism will become a profession according to the definition proposed by Merrill and supporters of the profession, that professionalization will come about by journalists accepting an individual sense of responsibility. Rivers and Schramm (1969) state that “you cannot have both individual concepts of responsibility and a professional concept of responsibility” because a professional concept of responsibility would squash substandard

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