And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, "Editor Emeritus"

... that current debate about what constitutes real news or fake news convinces me that my chosen profession, journalism, has undergone a major change since my university education.

A major factor in that thinking is that I know Jim Acosta’s name.

I should not.

He is the CNN White House correspondent.

And as such he frequently reports on his beat to his network news shows. Which is as it should be. But I don’t spend a lot of time watching the evening news on that channel, and yet his name is perhaps best known of all network beat reporters.

Why?

Because his open antagonism to the current administration plays out in Shakespearean tragedy at every White House news conference. As a result, he often not only gets air time on his own network but his name is repeated on others as well.

A journalist should never allow that to happen.

One of my J-school instructors used to say that if a reporter becomes a part of a story, he or she has made a terrible, unforgivable professional error.

Acosta is guilty of that error, regardless of whether one considers his omnipresence valid or not.

I was sadly warned about this new attitude by journalists many years ago closer to home.

This newspaper used to sponsor a high school junior’s attendance at a workshop for high school editors-to-be held at the University of Iowa in the summer.

When I asked one of them what had been stressed at the workshop, he said they were told the major job of the high school paper was to make things uncomfortable for the school’s administration and school board.

I suggested that that was not true; that the school paper’s main job was to report what had happened, was happening, or was going to happen in the school community. And if that made administrators and board members unhappy, so be it. But the knives should be kept sheathed until needed, and not displayed as threats.

And I also suggested to management that the paper reconsider the U of I scholarship!

Professional journalism is hard work.

For every Acosta, there are hundreds of working journalists whose names remain unknown, but whose work is heard and read every day largely in professional anonymity, as it should be.
 

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