Journalist: Oh No! Student Journalists Will Destroy Journalism!

from the oh-please dept

So for the last few years, all we keep hearing about from professional journalists is how there is less and less reporting going on, and how we’ll all miss “real” reporting once it’s gone. They complain that without new business models journalism itself is doomed. Leave aside how ridiculous all of that is (and, yes, it’s totally ridiculous), when a new project comes along that will enable more reporting in the San Francisco Bay Area, via a partnership between radio station KQED and journalism students at Berkeley, along come the professional reporters complaining about how this is the death of journalism and must be stopped. That’s the view of the East Bay Express’s Robert Gammon. Why? Well, because it involves students instead of pro journalists, and thus is unfair competition:

The venture also threatens traditional news media in the Bay Area, because it will rely on 120 journalism students at Cal who will work for free. The massive free-labor workforce will give the new venture a huge advantage over established Bay Area media organizations that depend on paid, veteran journalists to gather and put together news stories.

I read that and all I can think is, Mr. Gammon, did you really just mean to suggest that your years of experience and professional connections are so worthless that a group of students will automatically beat you in the marketplace? Because that’s what he said. After we keep being told how pro journalists are so important, and all their experience, knowledge and reporting chops differentiates them from the unwashed masses, here is a guy who is flat-out admitting that he has no advantage over some pure amateurs.

Let’s hope UC Berkeley and KQED seriously rethink this plan before it goes live early next year. The idea of a non-profit news organization has merit, but using what amounts to slave labor to make it happen is bad for journalism.

So, let me see if I get this straight. Things have been really bad because there were fewer reporters working on the news, and we’ll all miss them when they’re gone… but as soon as anyone new enters the market, it will be bad for journalism? And even if the journalism is done by students who have no experience, the amazing pros simply won’t be able to compete? Yeah, that’s believable.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Journalist: Oh No! Student Journalists Will Destroy Journalism!”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Michael Price (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So in other words it is entirely believable that the students would win and win easily. I’ve just read the sunday Sydney Morning Herald and it contained articles on how the poor cops were being maligned about the Haneef case (so they jailed an innocent man on no genuine evidence, it’s hard to get it right), Iran’s “secret” nuclear facility (the one they openly announced) and how video games rot your brain (studies say the opposite). This from a “quality” newspaper.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

well, then those that are “good enough” can do the jobs they are “good enough at” and get BETTER at those jobs while those more experience people that are already “better” can do more sophisticated jobs that will advance technology and the industry further. Why should those that are better waste time doing the job that someone less experienced can easily do instead of using that time to do more sophisticated tasks.

Krevy says:

Re: Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

To answer your question, it’s quite simple. The person who is better doesn’t want to waste his time with nonsense that is harder because it isn’t harder in the sense that it involves a lot of braincells but because someone forgot what autmation is. Just do it good enough so you have a job and can collect your pay. You aren’t being paid to save the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

I didn’t ask a question and I can’t really understand what you’re trying to say.

“because it isn’t harder in the sense that it involves a lot of braincells”

Notice I used the word “sophisticated” not necessarily “harder.”

“because it isn’t harder in the sense that it involves a lot of braincells “

Then the stuff that you want the more experienced person to do is stuff that entry level people can do perfectly well. As a result, the entry level people should be allowed to do it so

A: They can gain experience too

B: more experienced people can worry about more sophisticated tasks.

If the more experienced people have nothing to offer that the less experienced people have then the job is basically a commodity job, like chopping down trees or picking oranges, and we should encourage more sophisticated jobs to become commodity jobs where less experienced people with less education can perform those jobs more effectively at a cheaper price so as to enable the free market to create more sophisticated jobs that more experienced people can occupy. Otherwise, why should an industry hire a more experienced orange picker than a less experienced if both do the same job perfectly well? The same exact thing applies here.

But in the field of journalism more experienced people are likely to have a niche that less experienced people don’t have. More experienced people, for instance, can learn specified topics; like biology, physics, law, etc… and start reporting/commenting on those topics with better detail and accuracy and clarity and insight. The fact is that there is SO MUCH information out there, so many fields you can learn and get a PH.D in that an experienced journalist can spend an entire lifetime studying these fields and barley scratch the surface but the fact that the more experienced journalists will have more experience reporting/commenting and being correcting and studying various topics will yield more value for the more experienced journalist to expand on these topics instead of just being a generalist. So yes, less experienced journalists should be allowed to take the place of more experienced journalists and more experienced journalists should be forced to compete with less experienced journalists to encourage the more experienced journalist to advance his/her understanding of various issues and continue to become a BETTER reporter/commenter than less experienced journalists so as to create a niche for himself/herself when it comes to commenting and reporting on various issues. If the more experienced journalist isn’t going to advance his/her knowledge to offer something of value that the less experienced journalist can’t offer as easily IN A FREE MARKET (ie: without crying to the government for help) then perhaps the more experienced journalist DESERVES to get paid as much as the less experienced journalist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

In other words if journalism really is a commodity job (and I don’t believe that for MANY reasons) where entry level people can do as good a job as experienced people then LET IT BET. That way we can allocate simple jobs to less entry level people and as more sophisticated people who want more pay will fulfill a more relevant market need. As less experienced people advance and become more sophisticated they will eventually move on to other jobs that serve a more relevant market need while their job is replaced by less sophisticated people.

But I find this hard to believe in journalism. Those who are entry level will become sophisticated within the field and will gain a good reputation (ie: like Mike on Techdirt has) with the people of being a reliable reporter and/or commentator and THAT will give that person a competitive advantage. Entry level people may take their old position but then that just means it’s time for them to advance their position and to start reporting and reporting on a wider range of topics with a lot more specificity.

I mean, look at techdirt, we go into FAR MORE details on issues than mainstream media and this is a pretty general blog even. They have specialized blogs that deal with patents far more specifically and even blogs that deal with patents involving pharmaceuticals. There are blogs that deal with medicine specifically and discuss patents (among other things) within medicine. Face it, mainstream media and all these “experienced” journalists have completely failed us, mainstream media is a joke and we should ABSOLUTELY allow anyone to speak their mind on radio and blogs and to report on various issues so as to cover issues that aren’t normally covered in more specificity and to cover a wider range of views instead of just the view that big corporations want to broadcast because of their control over mainstream media.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

There are blogs that deal with copyright specifically, there are blogs that deal with prior art specifically, there are blogs that deal with ALL SORTS of issues VERY specifically. Yes, everyone should absolutely have a right to blog about what they want and others who are interested in these topics should have a right to read and respond to these blogs. Mainstream media is VERY general and usually they only discuss certain sides of an issue while censoring other sides and stories that may upset very large corporations.

eurydice (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

AC said: “and we should ABSOLUTELY allow anyone to speak their mind on radio and blogs and to report on various issues…”

…With which I completely agree. But that is not the same as hiring people to work for free. It is not slave work either if the free workers do it voluntarily, but nonetheless it pressures down the price of that kind of job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

“With which I completely agree.”

The government does not agree. If they agreed the airwaves, cablecos, and laws wouldn’t be structured the way they are. They may tell me they agree but their actions tell me they don’t agree and I have every reason not to trust them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

another thing you can do is start learning new languages so you can start reporting and commenting (and translating) on issues that involve other languages and/or other countries. People who speak multiple languages are VERY valuable. It’s YOUR job to make yourself NATURALLY more valuable, it’s not the governments job to make you artificially more valuable. If you’re too lazy to do anything to make yourself naturally more valuable than an entry level journalist that’s YOUR fault, it’s YOUR failure, no one else is to blame.

eurydice (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

That it the point exactly, I think, that the worried journalist is trying to say. The market is biased if a bunch of people start working as journalists for FREE. I don’t know what your job is, but how would you fell if a bunch of people started working your kind of job for free? Wouldn’t you start worrying for your next yearly salary negotiation with your boss? I know I would.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

“Wouldn’t you start worrying for your next yearly salary negotiation with your boss?”

You damn right I would be, but I wouldn’t be asking for government intervention or even asking to stop the people from doing it for free. If the job that I do can be done for free then I better damn well get more valuable skills.

What’s the difference between this and someone getting payed half or a quarter of what you do to do the same exact job? If you found out that the newcomers that do the same exact job that you do are getting payed 25% of what you are, won’t you get worried as well?

This is where experience and valuable skills come in. I don’t have to worry about the people who do tech support for free or extremely low pay because I have the experience and skills to do it right. And if they also have the experience and still charge less or none, it’s called competition and I need to adjust my value or price accordingly.

Krevy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

We have the same end view but different view point attaining that end view.

As far as I know people read the news only to socialize. They don’t read about to get a “scoop”. It’s mostly related to the interaction between human being so you can say “Did you read that on the news? Can you believe it?!”.

A journalist who has a Phd. is a waste of money, personally. A journalist with a Phd. in Computer Engineering, or any other form of Egineering, is not a journalist because he wanted to be one but probably because he coudln’t find a job in the Engineering field.

Furthermore, people overhype the term “professional”. As it stands, it means nothing other than being curteous, thus having curteous behaviour. Basically, professional means being respectful of others. It does not mean that you are well educated. Furthermore, have higher level degrees does not mean you are well educated.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

Furthermore, people overhype the term “professional”. As it stands, it means nothing other than being curteous, thus having curteous behaviour.

No, it means being paid for doing a job. Consider professional athletes. “Courteous” isn’t the first word that comes to mind, is it? But they’re professionals, because they have a paid career in whatever sport they play. Another definition is more akin to “white collar”: professional careers such as law, accounting, etc. However, I’ve never heard it defined as “courteous”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

What you are asking for us is to harm human advancement and society by giving jobs that less experienced people can do to more experienced people and hence the less experienced people get less experience in more relevant and sophisticated jobs while the more experienced people aren’t getting experience in even more sophisticated jobs because they are doing the jobs that less experienced people can do. This is BAD for human advancement. As a society we need to advance human understanding not create artificial restrictions that hinder that advancement.

eurydice (profile) says:

Re: Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

I completely agree. In a perfect world that’s how it would and should be. But I doubt that that’s how it is and will be in any near future with journalism. I know some investigative journalists myself, and they suffer to get their (expensive) stories sold or funded because more and more media are cutting their budgets for investigative journalism. I wish that the majority of journalists, also the students, would get a chance to excel in investigative journalism, and that someone would pay them to do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

“the same has been happening for years in fields like IT and engineering. Experience and skill doesn’t win out in the marketplace if lesser skilled “good enough” labor is available.”

If the new entrants really aren’t able to provide better service than senior journalists then there is no reason to allow the price of the product to become cheaper. However, what you are suggesting is that people are incompetent and somehow unable to choose better quality products over lower quality products because they are too ignorant and stupid so wee need some condescending “professional” to dictate to us what constitutes higher quality news/journalism so that s/he can charge a higher price. We are as capable of deciphering a good journalist from a bad one just like the “professionals” and we don’t need some condescending journalist to cry to congress that s/he can’t provide a better service to us so congress has to start passing laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

sp/If the new entrants really aren’t able to provide better service than senior journalists then there is no reason to allow the price of the product to become cheaper./If senior journalists really aren’t able to provide better service than new entrants then there is no reason not to allow the price of the product to become cheaper.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

No – it hasn’t. Good engineers still have jobs here in the bay area. It’s simplistic work that can be done by anyone mildly educated 10,000 miles away that gets shipped away. And the organizations that do a good job of doing that grow and are able to hire MORE good engineers here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

and I completely agree, those more experienced will naturally get better jobs than those less experienced without the need for government intervention. They will be managers and move up because they will make fewer novice mistakes and be able to manage a bunch of novices to ensure that they collectively don’t make mistakes. Owners and those who own businesses would much rather trust someone experienced in a field to manage their business rather than someone inexperienced and would be more than willing to pay a premium.

Mechwarrior says:

Re: His fears aren't entirely unfounded ...

Actually, this is a misconception. Its not that “lesser skilled” labor is being used elsewhere, its that there is a dearth of skilled labor in the United States , and the only way to fill it is with similarly skilled labor from other locations. Have you ever seen the size of psychology or business classes at a university as compared to engineering and IT? Anecdotaly, it can be a difference of 4 to 5 fold.

The situation you described is more a fault of the local population for looking for easy money…

eurydice (profile) says:

Re: Student Journalists Will Destroy Journalism!

In Denmark journalist students get PAID while they’re on their internship!! I was one myself for 18 months, enjoying it so much more than the for the most part uninspiring teachers I was so unfortunate to have at the Danish School of Journalism. I’m aware, though, that more and more students from other disciplines in Denmark are so eager to get some journalism experience on their cv that they offer media companies to work for free! Which is really uncool for the journalist students because that will put their salary under pressure. Why pay for something (ok of a lesser quality, but will the masses notice?) if you can get it for free?

bugmenot (profile) says:

Journalist have become truth terrorists

My kids were taught in grade school – 1990s – to never cite a news source to support a fact! The same lesson appeared in high school during report writing lessons. Needless to say they don’t subscribe to a newspaper. And what did the latest studies show? About two-thirds of the population thought the news media was untrustworthy! And similar numbers declared the news media biased! Sure there are hard working honest journalists in the world. The problem is there is no way to tell anymore! Perception is reality. You can’t believe a journalist! And that’s the business case problem for news outlets. Few people with a brain will pay for untruths? And, for the intelligence challenged, they are being terrorized with untruths!

eurydice (profile) says:

Re: Journalist have become truth terrorists

I, too, learned not to cite a news paper article for facts in grade school, high school and so forth. And media and politicians are still the most untrusted people in Denmark (up there with used car sales people) Nonetheless, it’s my impression that American media is much more biased than anything I’ve seen in Europe!!! Danish – and the European media I’m familiar with – still try to do unbiased and fair reporting. Only the editorials define the official political line of the paper/magazine. You can’t tell while reading the articles if the journalists writing it are left- or right-leaning. If at all, you’ll see some of both in both newspapers with left- and right-leaning editorials. PBC and NPR are close to reporting the European way, but they are so afraid, it seems, to sound biased that they seem afraid of asking critical questions. They leave it up to their sources to criticize each other. I prefer when the host of radio and tv programmes is not afraid to ask critical questions. Campbell Brown on CNN (formerly worked for the great Tim Russert) comes close.
Another thing I hate about American tv news is that the hosts are told by their bosses to be funny and chit chat!?!? WTF!?!? Don’t waste my time!!!
It’s bad enough with all the aggressive adds and deafening volume in the middle of news programs, that makes my heart rate and cholesterol numbers explode. MAN, I miss good, public European, add free media!!! Even if I had to pay a decent amount for it, it was very much worth it for me.

eurydice (profile) says:

Student Journalists Will Destroy Journalism!

I think you twist his point. His point is that if the radio station succeed in getting enough free content from students, who will pay for journalism in the future?
If the masses of radio listeners and other media users are fine with just music, adds and voluntary journalism, which I have a feeling they are, why should any media pay tons of money for expensive, time consuming investigative journalism, which is already under immense pressure as we speak?
I don’t understand why journalists have a lesser right to be paid for their job that people in any other professions. Should we stop paying teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, handymen and engineers? I think that’s the point the complaining journalist is trying to make.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Student Journalists Will Destroy Journalism!

I don’t understand why journalists have a lesser right to be paid for their job that people in any other professions.

You’re right, everyone has the same right to be paid: none.

Should we stop paying teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, handymen and engineers?

If someone is willing and able to do their jobs just as well for free, it would be pretty stupid to continue paying, no?

I think that’s the point the complaining journalist is trying to make.

I think Mike got that point, he just disagrees with it.

NullOp says:

Well, duh....

Its because journalism has by-and-large already died that this guy thinks students can compete with him. Most news sources have turned themselves into tabloids, turning out on sensational piece after another. Gruesome pictures, descriptions and gross detail are all that’s offered these days. Let the students report. They can’t do any worse.

eurydice (profile) says:

Re: Well, duh....

That seem to be true in the US, sadly. I’m amazed at how much time is wasted on tv news channels on these kind of stories instead of stories that are relevant to the citizens. It used to be the media’s task to inform the citizens on what was happening in the society (and the world) so that they could perform their democratic duties (stay updated) so they can vote and make their voices heard based on an informed grounding. Why octo-moms and other scandals aren’t left to gossip magazines, tabloids and “Believe it or not”-like magazines is a mystery to me. Instead, please give me insightful reporting on the world, science, business, environment & technology, politics/society and a bit of culture, please 🙂

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Just a wish ....

“Asked if such efforts could accelerate the decline of troubled Bay Area papers like The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Jose Mercury News, as some experts have predicted, Mr. Hellman said: “I think that’s a reasonable question. I think that demise might be inevitable, anyway. This might put journalism, broadly defined, on a much more stable foundation.””

Wish someone would help the recording industry in the same way …..

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:


I believe people are missing the real point. When I was young (yes, I realize most of you had not been born then – in most cases, your PARENTS hadn’t been born then), jounalists, such as Ernie Pyle (blessed be his name! – little Islamism there), Edward R. Murrow, etc., mostly reported the news, believing that, except in unusual cases, the NEWS was the thing (even then, Edward R. Murrow strayed only a little; to derail McCarthy, and things like that – important things.
Today, journalists are no longer journalists, they are JOURNALISTS – and seldom have much of anything to say that is worth listening to (now, blogs, on the other hand, such as Techdirt, tend to get too involved in trivia (artists, or is that artistes, whose biggest claim to fame is earning a lot of money without doing anything useful), but overall, actually report NEWS, and often with little or no comment.

PT (profile) says:

It's all about control

It isn’t just the threat to “journalism” that’s driving this debate. The history of the 20th Century is the story of journalists and publishers being roped and tied to the service of governments, political parties, and other, less visible, interests. It’s only the rise of “amateur” journalists and their freedom to publish on the internet that presents any obstacle to the complete control of everything we read or see by a small handful of puppet masters. So yes, Gammon is partly right – it is the death of journalism – but only propaganda journalism as we have come to know it. It’s the renaissance of true journalism, the unfettered free press that special interests have put so much effort into suppressing for the past 100 years. And since the new press is not geographically constrained or shackled by expensive presses and distribution networks, it may be a little more difficult to put the lid on it this time. I can understand why the establishment is worried.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...