Professionalism, Not Professionals


Communication and Journalism



Document Type



journalistic ethics, professionalism, media literacy


The proliferation of news and information sources has motivated a need to identify those providing legitimate journalism. One temptation is to go the route of such fields as medicine and law, namely to formally professionalize. This gives a clear method for determining who is a member, with an array of associated responsibilities and rewards. We argue that making such a formal move in journalism is a mistake: Journalism does not meet the traditional criteria, and its core ethos is in conflict with the professional mindset. We thus shift the focus from whether the person is journalist to whether the work satisfies the conditions that characterize legitimate journalism. In explaining those conditions we also look at mechanisms for enhancing the power of persons doing journalism, drawing upon lessons from the labor movement. We also consider a self-declaration model while urging increased literacy from all participants in the news gathering and consuming enterprise.

Published in

Journal of Mass Media Ethics

Citation/Other Information

Meyers, C., W. Wyatt, S. Borden, E. Wasserman. (forthcoming—2012). Professionalism, not professionals. Journal of Mass Media Ethics 27.3.