THE TRADE OF JOURNALISM
Journalists are like the unfortunate Englishman of American descent in George Ade's fable--"neither the one thing nor the other." Theirs is not a trade like brass-polishing or carpentering, which require long apprenticeships. The fact that any untrained man can become a good reporter within a very few months has made it difficult for journalism to rise to the rank of a profession. And where there is ease of entrance, there will be found many undesirable candidates. Mr. H. L. Menoken, in a burst of constructive criticism says that newspaper men must control the various schools of journalism throughout the country, and institute a vigorous weeding-out policy among the candidates, a policy which the Medical and Bar Associations have been pursuing in their own schools for some years. No galaxy of high-flown codes of ethics adorning the walls of newspaper offices will make journalism into a profession. Neither will diplomas, even from such excellent schools as the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University do it, unless the entrance requirements of these schools are raised and the scholars in them more carefully selected.
President Butler, in his address to the Columbia School of Journalism, shows no appreciation of this struggle of the trade to rise into the ranks of the professions. He tells his hearers to cherish public opinion, and to guide it into the proper channels. Just how this is to be done Mr. Butler does not state. If through the news columns, any but the most impartial rehearsal of facts savours of something very like propaganda, which obviously has no place in a paper except on the editorial page, with which the average reporter has very little to do. Neither is it feasible to influence public opinion through the sacred sporting page, or the serenity of the bedtime story.
The growth of large newspapers and newsgathering agencies in this country has been accompanied by no corresponding increase in the calibre of reporters to fit their larger importance. The evolution of journalism into a profession would help to accomplish this; but like all lasting reforms, it can be brought about only through the efforts of journalists themselves. At present the lack of a long period of apprenticeship, which is required of the embryo doctor, lawyer, or clergyman, militates heavily against such a promotion.