Journalistic Privilege

by Jonah Goldberg

Re: Today’s syndicated column:


As one who spent 15 years as all kinds of reporter – general assignment, cop shop, trials, features and, mostly, political and legislative – I was pleased to read your column on the subject of journalists’ so-called privilege in refusing to assist law enforcement investigations.

Especially telling was your mention of the paradoxical nature of the whole Joe Wilson kerfuffle – the press demanded the investigation and now faces the unpleasant question: do we help or not?

The reason I cited my experience is so I could make this following point with some legitimacy: You point out that journalists love to compare what they do to what doctors and lawyers do. In other words, they seek to ‘professionalize’ their jobs. That, to me, is just so much crap. Before I became a reporter, I spent a number of years as a carpenter, and I would compare the job of a reporter more to that of a tradesman. You don’t need advanced education to be a reporter or columnist. You should, ideally, know how to spell and use correct grammar. The rest is up to the innate talent of the individual.

I know where all this First Amendment absolutism and professionalization comes from. We got it, big ladles of it, spooned over us every day in J-school back in the 70s. Bob Woodward and Don Bolles were Lancelot and Galahad in our eyes, because that was what the faculty told us.

It wasn’t until much later that I came to realize that the burning zeal for afflicting the comfortable I had inhaled in college was just so much parsley.

The MSM is coming undone because the literate public is tired of the poseurs, as you said, in their ermine robes dispensing THE WORD. During the past election cycle, the guy behind the curtain was exposed for the hustler that he is. Bloggers far better educated than the scribbling and chattering classes took apart the silly “blockbusters” like Rathergate in no time flat. I still don’t know why so many people were surprised by this.

As always, it is a treat to read your work. All the best,

The Corner

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