Jennifer Aniston of all people has me thinking. She recently did an interview with late night talk host Chelsea Handler where she questioned whether or not Katie Couric is a “legitimate journalist”. Ouch!
Aniston posed the question after learning Couric had asked Handler if she had any details about the actress’ upcoming wedding during her daytime talk show “Katie”. I could question Aniston’s feigned surprise over the public’s interest in her personal life but that’s a whole other story. While her remark seemed to be made in a moment of irritation she does raise a point. Never before in this industry have the lines between news and entertainment been more blurred.
I think much of this has to do with the evolution of news which for the most part has morphed into a form of infotainment. Much of this happened as a result of morning shows, a place where Couric gained her recognition.
I personally have always had a problem referring to myself as a journalist and I’m not sure why. The word carries such gravitas to me and I kind of feel I haven’t earned the stripes. Truth is I also feel like many others in my profession haven’t either.
Dan Gillmor who teaches and writes about digital media raises a similar question in a 2010 article for Slate. Gillmor writes that in this age of new media we are all capable of “committing acts of journalism” but that doesn’t necessarily make us all journalists. Gillmor says the better question to ask is “What is journalism?”.
If I follow Gillmor’s example, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric is journalism. “Katie” the daytime talk show is not. This is not to diminish Couric’s continued contribution to broadcasting. She still conducts newsworthy high profile interviews even “committing acts of journalism”, but CBS Evening News has a set of journalistic standards which a daytime talk show does not. Otherwise Ellen Degeneres, Wendy Williams and Marie Osmond could all be called journalists too.
What do you think? Do you call yourself a journalist? Should anyone be allowed to use that title? Does it matter?