The Times They Are A-Changin’

rpynn by Roger Pynn

Bob Dylan’s timeless folk song told us that the only constant is change and for many of my generation it was an anthem as young people began to question social and political values.  So I thought of that last weekend when at a Florida Public Relations Association Counselors Network Winter Symposium.  I learned that journalism is officially no longer what I was taught in college.

I’ve suspected as much due to the endless use of the words “I think” by television newscasters who are all too ready to offer their opinion (something my journalism professor Jeddy LeVar would have flunked me for).  There has been any number of signs that my old trade was disappearing, not the least of which is that many a journalism program is adapting to new media instead of teaching those who work in new media fields to adhere to the basic tenets of the profession.

But when Poynter Institute faculty member Kelly McBride, herself a former ombudsman for a major news organization, presented her definition of journalism, I thought about waving the white flag.  Said McBride, author of the book The New Ethics of Journalism, “Journalism is information that helps individuals connect with their communities and uphold their civic duties.”

I’d always thought of it as something like the Merriam-Webster’s description:  “The collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.”

But then again, McBride told me the problem with my concerns about the state of the fourth estate is a simple result of the aging process.  “You’re old,” she responded when I complained that too many journos aren’t trained as I was.

Yes.  I’m old.  Yet, all due respect to Ms. McBride, but I don’t think that’s what Dylan was saying.  What the person with an iPhone and a blog is doing only qualifies as journalism if they adhere to the basic concepts of factual reporting sans opinion.

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