A new YouTube video has surfaced. It is an interesting video with an interesting story.
It is also, to me, a bit misleading and an indication of the problems journalism is facing.
The video is titled, "AMAZING video of a journalist not taking crap from NYPD." In the two-minute film, a man trying to tape an encounter between police and Occupy New York protesters repeatedly — and angrily — resists efforts to move him from the scene.
Two problems here. First, the individual does not have a press pass. In fact, he admits he does not have a press pass. Second, he never identifies himself as a journalist, or whom he works for.
This is a case where an individual who might be posing as a journalist is diminishing the credibility of the one group needed to maintain the honesty of the government and the freedom of the people — the professional press and journalists.
I have had long discussions with members of various journalism communities, including the LinkedIn's groups for the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Conference of Editorial Writers concerning a number of questions.
"Who (or what) is a journalist?"
"Does a person need to be paid to be a 'professional journalist?'"
"When does (or can) a blogger become a journalist?"
Unfortunately, there are no clear answers to these and other questions.
The idea of the unpaid "citizen journalist" is now firmly embedded in many news models, including the Missourian's and at The Huffington Post. The profession of journalism seems to be falling further to the wayside.
As our MU journalism students look toward finals and winter break, each might have to reassess the choice of an academic and future career. This is especially true as more and more naysayers claim that print journalism (as well as books in print) faces extinction in the not-too-distant future.
I do not agree with the coming of Armageddon for the newspaper industry, but I do see a threat imposed by those who claim to be "journalists" without regard for facts or credentials.
The videographer in the YouTube film is a prime example — no credentials, no proof of professionalism and, as it appears to me, more inclination for a confrontation than for a story.
My interpretation is that this faux-journalist was there to flout the law and law enforcement. Yet, even those with proper credentials must obey the law and legitimate legal orders.
It might be that the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Conference of Editorial Writers cannot agree on the definition of a journalist, but they would not include an individual who purposely becomes the story.
SPJ's code of ethics state that a journalist must "avoid misleading, re-enactment or staged news events," and this has all the appearance of being staged.
It is no wonder the field of journalism has fallen from grace in the last few decades. The days when Walter Cronkite was praised for being the "most trusted man in America" are long gone.
There are charges of political bias, plagiarism and paying for stories. A lack of integrity. Websites pawning themselves off as news.
These charges are threatening this very newspaper and the news industry.
Should students abandon the idea of becoming trusted journalists and seek a new profession? I don’t think so.
But an assessment of what is and is not news, as well as presentation of "facts" versus "fiction" or "conjecture," needs to be part of the discussion.
"Freedom of the Press" comes with a price — integrity, honesty, good faith and professionalism.
We cannot allow the world of news anarchy to take this obligation away.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. His new book is "A Christian Nation?"