Journalists’ right turn

17 04 2009

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News has a good post on the deathbead confessions of several journalists that the modal point of view of the profession has indeed become more conservative.

It’s been pretty obvious that it has happened. Discerning the causes of the shift makes for some good barroom conversation.

My take is that as individuals, journalists start out with a skeptical, anti-establishment point of view but naturally gravitate toward their sources, who more often than not are aligned with the power structure. I saw it happen in myself. Too, journalists can become jaded and cynical more quickly than others because of their frequent exposure to human nature at its worst.

Journalists also are at the front of most social trends, and the trend toward conservatism in U.S. over the last few decades caught many of them. You might expect the current trend toward liberalism to have the same effect. But it is younger journalists who are most trend-sensitive, and because the industry is contracting so rapidly, there are proportionately fewer of those. The profession is top-heavy on the senior end, with many practitioners now set in their philosophical and political ways.

Finally, like any institution, journalism is preoccupied with self-preservation and  maintaining the status quo. It reacts defensively under perceived threat and in turning inward moves toward conservatism. When under pressure of swift changes in their world, journalists — especially news executives — identify more with the establishment and see change as the enemy.