BuzzFeed, Acosta, and the Non-Existence of Journalism
On Thursday — just before BuzzFeed was revealed to be a millennial version of Orwell's Ministry of Truth — the redoubtable Jim Acosta accused Sebastian Gorka of not being "a journalist" when the CNN fave spied the Trump supporter hanging around a White House briefing. A verbal fight between the two gentlemen ensued with Gorka calling Acosta a "dickhead."
In this instance, both were right. About Acosta, the less said the better. But Gorka is definitely not a journalist (doubt he ever claimed to be). Neither, for that matter, is Acosta.
There's a simple reason: nobody is. Journalism, as a profession, does not exist. We know generally or specifically what qualifies one to be a cardiologist or an astrophysicist or even, heaven help us, a lawyer. But a journalist?
What possible credential makes one a journalist? A degree from the Columbia School of Journalism? Well, that proves your parents can afford a hundred grand. Either that or you're heavily in debt. Anyone can be a journalist. All you have to do is start typing.
And as for journalists we know, whether they write it or speak it and wherever they do it, they're all basically pundits, whether they admit it or not. Beneath the verbiage and the proofs, the quoted experts and anonymous sources, deny it though they might, everyone's got a narrative.
I know — the rap is that a real journalist is someone who fairly and impartially reports the truth, the proverbial chips falling how they may. (Stop laughing.) How does that fit with what just went down with BuzzFeed? Perhaps a better definition would be: a gullible idiot with an ax to grind. You don't have to go to J-school for that. All you have to be — like BuzzFeed's Jason Leopold — is another self-promoter willing (or, more exactly, eager) to believe it when someone tells you Donald Trump was dumb enough to tell Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about something that was perfectly legal in the first place — to wit, building a hotel in Moscow.
Of course, BuzzFeed, as juvenile as they are, is not alone at this. In a quick response, the Daily Caller assembled a list of eleven similar lies — "bombshells that didn't go off" — about Trump by putatively respected organizations like NBC and ABC. There are undoubtedly many, probably tons, more. Even the Wall Street Journal appears to be part of the "get Trump" competition that makes up whatever one calls journalism today. "Fake news" is actually a misnomer. It's far more deliberate than that. It's straight-out good old-fashioned disinformation.
But let's go back to the issue of "journalism" as a trade. It wasn't always this way. Back before the New York Times, et al., got pretentious with the "All the News That's Fit to Print" nonsense and Woodward and Bernstein got turned into movie stars because they could answer the phone, people knew journalists — more properly reporters — were working stiffs trying to make a living, not culture heroes. And I think we liked them better too then, even though, like all human beings, they were biased.