Both my parents were involved in journalism to different degrees (my father longer and more intensely). At one point I edited a student newspaper and started studying journalism but while I liked being around newspaper people I hated the study of journalism and soon abandoned it for something far less practical.
Neither of my parents had a college degree (I’m not entirely sure if my father actually graduated from high school and rather doubt it). But both did have lots of skills that came in handy in journalism.
- They had highly developed people skills and could establish rapport with people from a broad social range (they counted friends among both the richest and poorest in the county in addition to a wide variety of various eccentrics and colorful characters).
- They understood how local governments work and could attend a city council meeting, follow what happened and do a quick write up of what the results were in a way that people could understand.
- They knew how to access and interpret lots of public records.
- They had noses and an acute spider sense for impropriety and fishy dealings (they both knew about a lot of misdeeds that they couldn’t write about because of a lack of concrete sources). There was a ton of corruption in a small Florida community whose primary economic base was development so it was what you’d call a target rich environment.
- They knew how to present both sides of a story (the most damning evidence is often the simple truth plainly told).
- They also were willing to make enemies (I found out years later that my father’s life had possibly been in danger a few times).
All of this would have been in vain had there not been an audience that was smart enough to read and understand what they wrote who read the local papers daily.
All of this has now been pretty much destroyed. Newspapers mostly use services like journatic (renamed a time or two) where stories are written thousands of miles away and a single editor proofs the work of a dozen or so non-native English writers.
Major newspapers barely hire anyone who studied journalism. Some years ago the old blog halfsigma noticed that almost all the New York Times writers came from rich well-connected backgrounds. The last thing any of these precious dewdrops want is to upset any apple carts among their own class or deal with people who are different from them and so the New York Times has objectively become by traditional journalism standards a terrible, terrible newspaper now.
Well over 90 % of online ‘journalism’ is an embarassment and more than a few cases of what should be sensational nationwide scandals (like the new debt peonage of truckers) barely elicit a second glance by a degenerate and celebrity blinded readership.
The de-skilling and decline of journalism is a tragedy for the United States as a vigorous and informed press (and an audience willing and able to understand what it produces) are essential for civil society to continue and flourish. At present the US has neither.