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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/7/09

Who's a Journalist?

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Message Margaret Bassett
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I'm not a professional journalist. I wondered what one is.  To get a notion I went to find out what is required of a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. There I read their ethics code.  Here is what their preamble specifies:
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society's principles and standards of practice.

"From all media and specialties" stood out.  I guess I could work online only and be included--if I met all those other attributes.  Nowhere did I get the notion that one has to have a degree in a college Department of Journalism.  Sarah Palin has a degree in "Communications" and I guess that still makes us both at the starting gate. 

So, just to hit the main requirements, I list:
    Seek Truth and Report It
    Minimize Harm
    Act Independently
    Be Accountable

From these headings comes a lead sentence, herewith copied:

    Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
    Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.
    Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.
    Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

So there's the outline.  And to get to specifics, you will need to read the document--print it from a pdf file, if you wish.

I would have to get down from my hobby horse before I could call myself a professional journalist.  It's not likely I could trick myself into being impartial about political party, for example.  The ones who can be truly disinterested gain my respect, especially since there are  a lot of other attributes I'd have a hard time adopting.  For example, it takes all the will power I can muster to keep from drilling a hole through certain "media," especially TV and talk radio.  I think I could learn to respect other human beings enough not to call them despicable names, at least in recorded form. is sometimes said--is citizen journalism.  I agree that many members could--probably have--ascribed to the code of ethics discussed here.  It doesn't take a degree--college isn't even mentioned.  Obviously, a journalist must publish somewhere in some form, but that's a decision dictated by what is done rather than by personal profile.

Those who write obviously do so to communicate to others.  So in the interest of where you as a member of OEN stand, please let me know what you think our online journalism means to you.  And of course how you want to further it. 

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Margaret Bassett passed away August 21, 2011. She was a treasured member of the editorial team for four years.

Margaret Bassett--OEN editor--is an 89-year old, currently living in senior housing, with a lifelong interest in political philosophy. Bachelors from State University of Iowa (1944) and Masters from Roosevelt University (1975) help to unravel important requirements for modern communication. Early introduction to computer science (1966) trumps them. It's payback time. She's been "entitled" so long she hopes to find some good coming off the keyboard into the lives of those who come after her.
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