Ted Koppel and the Decline of Media Professionalism

Professionalism is the word that Ted Koppel means, but doesn't use in his critique of the media

I’m terribly concerned that when you talk about the New York Timesthese days, when you talk about the Washington Post these days, we’re not talking about the New York Times of 50 years ago. We are not talking about the Washington Post of 50 years ago. We’re talking about organizations that I believe have, in fact, decided as organizations that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.We have things appearing on the front page of the New York Times right now that never would have appeared 50 years ago. Analysis, commentary on the front page.

I've frequently used the editorialization of the Times front page as a major barometer of the decline of media professionalism.

The Times was biased and it had an agenda. But it used to stick that agenda between the lines. The appearance of front page editorials undermined its image of unbiased professionalism. Suddenly it was very obvious what the paper thought and wanted you to think.

And the media paid a price for that. It used to be possible to argue that the press was professional and unbiased. 

These days nobody outside the media would take that argument seriously.

To the Left, the virtue of the press is its naked bias. 

But that means that it has very little credibility as a professional institution. The media frequently turns to secondary experts because nobody takes its expertise seriously.

What does that mean? That’s not said by people who consider themselves reporters, objective reporters of facts. That’s the kind of language that’s used by people who genuinely believe, and I rather suspect with some justification, that Donald Trump is bad for the United States and they’re betting that the sooner he’s out of office the better they will like it. Whether that happens by virtue of indictment, impeachment or election, we’ll see. But I disagree with you, Marvin. We are not the the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were.

The distinction here is between the appearance of objectivity. 

The cop may think that the guy he's arresting is a scumbag, but as long as he follows the rules, professionalism is maintained. When he beats the guy up, he's no longer a professional.

A doctor may think that his patient would be better off being allowed to die, but when he helps him along, he's a murderer.

Professionalism maintains the legitimacy of professions and professionals. When professionalism goes, so does the profession.