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March 17, 2011, noon

Questioning Walter Lippmann and our methods of journalism training

Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its spring issue, which spotlights the efforts of reporters trying to uncover corruption. We’re highlighting a few entries that connect with subjects we follow in the Lab, but go read the whole issue. In this piece, James Miller of the University of London’s Center for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths writes about different approaches to journalism training.

Walter Lippmann complained in 1919 that American journalists were doing the work of “preachers, revivalists, prophets and agitators.” They reported the news “by entirely private and unexamined standards.” People would look back, Lippmann observed acidly in his book Liberty and the News, and wonder how nations that thought themselves to be self-governing “provided no genuine training schools for the [journalists] upon whose sagacity they were dependent.”

Lippmann considered making training in schools of journalism a requirement for the job. But what he really wanted, philosophically, was to model the practice of journalism on science, which had successfully harnessed the “discipline of modernized logic.” Decades later, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, in The Elements of Journalism, were still pursuing the same possibly illusive end, encouraging newspeople to adopt the rigor of their five “intellectual principles of a science of reporting.” If the dream of a scientific journalism has yet to be fulfilled, the more prosaic of Lippmann’s visions seems to have been realized.

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POSTED     March 17, 2011, noon
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