G. Pascal Zachary, after a multi-decade career with Big Media, has emerged confused.
At John Dvorak’s Uncensored site he urges journalists to embrace their biases, and to state them up-front. He calls this "a new ethos of journalism."
He thinks he’s saying something new. He’s not. He’s saying something quite old. Here is what he’s saying.
We’re all publishers now.
Personally I’ve worked that way for over a decade now. It’s not an easy road, because it means you have to take full responsibility for your work as a business, and as a trademark. This has been very hard for me to get my own arms around, since I was taught the maxim "journalists work for someone."
And that’s still the problem. If you’re going to work for, say, The Wall Street Journal, you’re subject to their biases, and their politics. What Zachary is saying here is that, if you’re a liberal, don’t work for them. The same with the biases of any other big publisher. If those aren’t your biases, don’t work for them, because their biases will become yours.
That’s a nice way to work, until the rent comes due.
What Zachary is implying is also something I have been saying for years. Journalism schools need to become business schools. If
writers are publishers, then they are subject to business ethics, not
some "professional" ethic foisted on them by an employer.
Thus nearly all journalism schools, including the one I graduated from,
are basically worthless. If you’re just teaching the mechanics of the
process, as defined by someone else’s enterprise, you’re turning out
serfs — not journalists.
Every journalist must hold their own credibility account. This is the
value of trust placed in them by readers. They can’t just hold the
account of an employer, benefitting from it, perhaps adding to it,
perhaps subtracting from it. The account must be theirs, in their name,
and anyone who threatens it must be seen as threatening you.
If your employer demands you behave unethically, as you view ethics,
you have a moral obligation to quit. If you’re going to work for Fox,
you’re Fox, and their stain will become yours.
If you don’t like that, you had better become an entrepreneur. And any
journalist who doesn’t leran entrepreneurship, and business, isn’t
learning what it takes to succeed in the 21st century.