THE EGO OF THE JOURNALIST
Roger Cohen of the New York Times reflects, in rather florid prose, on his time in Iran and what he sees as the 'actual responsibility' of the journalist. American journalists are famously serious about their calling but his sentiments would be shared by many Brits, too.
Cohen believes that journalists can bring something to a story such as the Iranian revolution that you could not get from Twitter, Youtube or the web. But is he right, I wonder, or is he really reflecting on the pleasure and sense of self-worth that he got from being close to and observing the conflict?
I'm not meaning to criticise Cohen - the attitude I detect in his piece is common among journalists. Ego has always been a motivating force in journalism, the desire for a byline, to prove yourself, to witness momentous events and believe you are helping shape them. But who gets the most out of this: readers or journalists?
Do we any longer need journalists as quasi-omiscient intermediaries, reflecting on and explaining events for us? Or can we get a better, more vivid, multidimensional view from other sources? Or is the journalist's role to curate what's out there, select the best and weave it together in coherent form?
Cricket fans used to receive their views and impressions of important matches from the pen of a Neville Cardus or a John Arlott, who are still remembered as great judges of the game and fine writers. Instead today we have the kind of live blogs you see on the BBC and elsewhere, replete with stats, debate, description and argument, with the journalist as ringmaster, rather than ultimate authority. I know which I prefer.