FILE under the law of unintended consequences: Because journos pride themselves on being disinterested observers without bias or investment — the old “objectivity” business — they are reticent to stand up for their own peers and profession. I found this out the hard way when I lost my job, and every editor I asked about a first person piece told me no one cared unless I wrote about how a layoff was the best thing that ever happened to me.
One of my favorite pieces yet provoked by my upcoming book, Culture Crash, comes from an LA-based urbanist who suggests that scribes need to plant a flag and take this crisis seriously. Josh Stephens’s piece, on Huffington Post, takes off from my book this way:
While great, brave journalists are still going undercover, reporting form the front lines, and digging up dirt that puts bad guys in jail and preserves democracy, we as a profession have been terrible at preserving ourselves. I can’t help thinking of the stereotypical stoic, cigar-chomping editor: put the paper to bed, have a Scotch, and wait for the next day’s mess. That’s a fine way to cover news but a lousy way to gain support for a noble profession…
Journalists are supposed to be objective and unbiased. But the one thing we can’t expect to be unbiased about is journalism itself. So, with the 2014 holiday season on the wane, I have made myself a promise for 2015. This year, my gifts, be they for birthdays, housewarmings, or next Christmas, are going include subscriptions. Every other journalist, and aspiring journalist, should pledge to do the same.
I don’t have the whole thing figured out and neither does Stephens. But this is a step in the right direction. This whole piece is worth reading — and I’m grateful to Stephens for getting riled up. More of us need to if this field is gonna live to see tomorrow.