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

Topics: Profession, Journalism, Lawyer Pages: 6 (1674 words) Published: February 18, 2012
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 concepts and the professionals would judge behavior against them, setting them as standard ideal. Daniel agrees that journalism is not a profession and that education for journalism would make it a true profession.

A professional journalism program is one which prepares a student to be a professional journalist. How a journalist is educated is very important. Barrett (insert year of publication here) blamed the poor educational system in the United States for not aiding and uplifting the profession. In recent times however, journalistic accreditation in universities is becoming standardized, although there are individuals who are not interested in a journalistic education at all. With formal journalism education, more candidates will and can be hired in the publishing, broadcasting and advertising media. Merrill agrees with Louis Lyons, a journalist of 20 years, that journalism schools are wasting time, effort and money on professional courses because for them, a journalistic education does not add to a student’s basic general education.

Merrill concluded that journalistic education can cause a student not to be creative and think for himself (causing a robot-like automatic reaction) and further it discourages unprofessionalism. Despite that statement however, he believes that not all students become robots out of the education system as there are some professors who encourage students to think outside of the box, though they themselves believe, and are involve in journalistic education. There are however, students and professors who bypass journalistic education as their background prior to engaging in journalism as a profession, nevertheless they were able to succeed as journalists.

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