I was once crestfallen when I read a piece by someone – I forget who – expressing a basic truth about journalism, one that I felt I had no choice but to accept.
This person wrote that journalism, unlike many other pursuits by college educated individuals, is a trade, not a profession. Like being a plumber, a carpenter, or an electrician. Nothing wrong with those trades, it’s just after four years of college, a tradesman is not what most of our parents imagined they’d paid for.
You see, a profession, like doctor, lawyer or engineer, generally requires years of training and knowledge of a very specific body of information. You need to know the law, you need to know the human body, and so forth. You can’t practice your profession unless you possess this knowledge.
Let’s face it, anybody can become a journalist, and these days anybody does. Even by traditional standards, the practice requires a limited amount of training, as well as an ability to write that can be managed by the tenth grade. Most journalists can’t even practice a basic skill, shorthand, that would seem to me imperative for fast and accurate quoting.
Journalists don’t need or get much relevant training, and yet they whine when their college buddies who have been rigorously schooled make so much more money than them.
Actually, when I think about it, being a good plumber, carpenter or electrician probably takes more training that it does to be a journalist. It’s really innate talent and hard work that separates the good journalists from the bad ones, not some kind of special knowledge.
I remember years ago I brought my sister, who is an attorney, into the White House to witness the briefing. And that was when the questions were tougher than today. Her judgement? It was nothing you wouldn’t see during an average cross examination by a regular, trained attorney.
Which brings me to Friday’s White House press conference, featuring the elite White House press corps.
I counted only one really good question. It was, not surprisingly, from Ed Henry of Fox News:
I want to ask you about two important dates that are coming up. October 1st you’ve got to implement your signature health care law. You recently decided on your own to delay a key part of that. And I wonder, if you pick and choose what parts of the law to implement, couldn’t your successor down the road pick and choose whether they’ll implement your law and keep it in place?
And on September 11th we’ll have the first anniversary of Benghazi. And you said on September 12th, “Make no mistake, we’ll bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” Eleven months later, where are they, sir?
This was the only really strong attempt at accountability. Other questions seemed almost designed to help Obama out.
For example this one by CBS’s Major Garrett – who is capable of far tougher inquiry – on debate over the upcoming Federal Reserve Chairman appointment:
Are you annoyed by this sort of roiling debate? Do you find it any way unseemly? And do you believe this will be one of the most important — if not the most important — economic decisions you’ll make in the remainder of your presidency?
Or this one by Scott Horsley of NPR:
Part of the political logic behind immigration reform was the strong showing by Latino voters last November. That doesn’t seem to resonate with a lot of House Republicans who represent overwhelmingly white districts. What other political leverage can you bring to bear to help move a bill in the House?
Seriously. Maybe we might as well leave this stuff to Leno.