Journalism was a profession that was perpetually unaware of itself. An Op-Ed piece in the New York Times is a case in point.
It is an an opinion is about journalism (with the headline “Some Reflections on Journalism”), but the knee-slapper is this passage:
That, however, is not what journalists are about most of the time. Their realm is facts. Stubborn facts, the kind that bring down governments, usher barbarians to judgment. We are living a great journalistic flowering, provoked by the contempt for the truth, and often for the Constitution, of Donald Trump’s White House. In the unending task of keeping the Republic, journalists have made a difference.Perhaps that’s what it comes down to: making a difference, in some small but important way. Sure, journalism can be a “cheap shot” when it’s self-congratulatory, or voyeuristic, smug or shallow. (“Fake news” is not journalism). The journalist evokes suffering and moves on; the suffering tends to endure.
Journalism was never about the facts. It was about stories. Narratives filled with Us and Them, with a dash of They Should Help Us.
If it was about facts, it would never be about stenography: it would be about respect for empiricism, experimentation, and studying the deeper meaning of what is a fact. There could have been a science of facts. There could have been a science of journalism.
Instead, it was about putting no effort, slapping together a fact or two, and then dressing it up with some melodramatic narrative that never aligned with either truth and reality.
Yet again, the Times peddles another some mis-reflections on journalism, and explains why the profession lost its way for a long time with no signs of ever getting better.