Alexa Kravitz, a j-school student at U Maryland, wrote this interesting piece debating whether or not having non-journalists host political talk shows is a problem. Here are some highlights we found thought-provoking:
Journalists: They are trained to minimize the impact of their bias.
Even though many of the cable political talkfests focus on opinion rather than reporting, Deggans says there’s value in having journalists at the helm. “I think if you are a trained journalist, part of that training involves being taught a process that will allow you to minimize the impact of your bias even if you are an opinion person,” he says. “When I make my arguments, I try to be fair to the other side and to present the information as accurately as I can, without leaving out information about the opposing argument.”
Non-Journalists: They offer expertise on specific topics from years of experience.
Jerome Groopman, for one, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and an author who doubles as a staff writer for The New Yorker. Although not inherently a journalist, his medical knowledge gives value to his contributions.
And well, journalists aren’t necessarily the best (or most dynamic) talk-show hosts.
Plus, a country that covets freedom of the press also doesn’t define journalist in a neat little box. NPR’s media correspondent, David Folkenflik comments:
Journalism is a profession, an avocation, in which nobody gets to license you; the government doesn’t get to say you get to be a journalist and you don’t, and that’s a good thing. That’s part of our tradition of freedom of the press and the openness of the field to those who seek it out.
So what’s the real problem with having non-journalists hosting political talk-shows? The fact the viewers don’t always realize these people aren’t journalists.
Broadcast Marvin Kalb weighs in:
Argument on cable TV is now the bread and butter of the media. You have someone from the left arguing with someone from the right, and everyone’s happy. But they are not in a classic sense reporting the news; they are moderating or even instigating an exchange of opinion about the issue at hand.
FJP: Agreed. We can’t assume that people know who is a journalist (or educated and adherent to media ethics) and who isn’t.
Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik says:
No, people don’t know that these are opinion shows during prime time, And one of the reasons they don’t is because cable executives are lying their butts off and putting out ads trying to present these people as journalists. There isn’t a clear line between the two.
It’s one of the things that helps confuse the public about what journalists do but, even worse, makes parts of the public think of journalists as frauds, phonies, biased, players in this sort of media game of cable TV news.
So good journalism can lose credibility too. Thoughts? —Jihii