Pajamas TV is turning Joe the Plumber into a journalist, and the media class doesn’t like it one bit.
Joe Wurzelbacher is in Israel with a television crew in tow to talk to Israeli civilians about the war with Hamas in Gaza, and quite a few journalists — including the author of this media blog — seem personally offended that an out-of-work plumber who was recently the focus of their snarky asides might soon be counted as a peer.
On the surface, their complaint seems to be that that being a war correspondent — among the most glamorous and dangerous of media assignments — requires a specialized journalism background.
At the risk of bruising the fragile egos of some of these journalists — no, it doesn’t.
It never has.
Stephen Crane, the novelist and journalist best known for the Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, covered the brief Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish-American War, somehow completing his assignments without graduating from a string of colleges. Somehow Crane muddled by, despite not possessing a great deal of historical knowledge, military insight, or specific expertise about either the conflicts he was paid to cover or those fighting in them. Perhaps he was just lucky these were short wars. Ernie Pyle worked on a much longer and wider stage than Crane, and was known for his folksy, down-home stories of regular people serving in World War II. Pyle didn’t complete his degree at Indiana University, but he didn’t let that stop him from getting syndicated by more than 300 newspapers. He picked up a Pulitzer on his way to becoming the most famous war correspondent in American media history.
Today, Pyle’s torch is being carried by independent combat photojournalists like Michael Yon, who took perhaps the most iconic photo of the Iraq War in 2005 — an American officer cradling a mortally wounded Iraqi girl after a terrorist attack. The photo was Time magazine’s online photo of the year. Yon’s combat dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan are read around the world. Yon has no formal training as a journalist, and yet does the job far better than 99% of journalists in professional news organizations.