The latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review rounds up 38 journalism-people to answer the question "What is journalism for?" (Actually, it was "What is journalism for," and also "Can anyone be a journalist?" and "What do they need to do to be considered a journalist?", though the final feature left out the latter two questions.)
My contribution was aimed at the can-anyone-be-a-journalist part, and here's how it begins:
Want to circumvent, at long bloody last, the tedious, multidecade debate over who is and isn't a journalist? Repeat after me: Journalism is an activity, not a profession. It may be a calling for many of us, but that doesn't mean it isn't a legitimate side-hobby for many millions more, including (shudder) those who don't share our basic set of sourcing traditions or political assumptions.
Other respondents include Arianna Huffington, Chris Hayes, Peggy Noonan, Craig Newmark, Ira Glass, Marc Ambinder, Errol Morris, Ben Smith, Sebastian Junger, Michael Oreskes, Chris Hughes, John R. Macarthur, and civil libertarian hero Nat Hentoff. I will note that the assignment was to answer "preferably in 100 words or less," so you can judge for yourself who knows how to stick to a word count.
Hentoff, who rarely misses an opportunity to go ballistic about civil liberties, did not disappoint. Excerpt:
[N]ever before in our history than right now have the media been more needed to keep demonstrating to Americans how close we are to losing our most fundamental individual liberties to the Obama administration, which ceaselessly ignores the quintessential separation of powers. In the July 12 New York Times, Randy Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University, underscored Obama's abuse of "the fundamental constitutional principle that the sovereign people must be the ultimate external judge of their servants’ conduct in office . . .
"Congress and the courts must put a stop to . . . these surveillance programs [and] danger . . . to the rights retained by the people."
But how can this happen unless journalists persistently stay on this story and reveal the mounting un-American facts that demand that We the People seize accountability and restore the Constitution?