What’s a professional?

In Ch. 3, Clay Shirky hits head on the issue of newspapers and professional journalists not realizing the real problems the Internet would cause for the journalism industry. As society continues to change, there is still no specific answer as to who is considered to be a professional journalist and why they would be considered to be so. This shift to journalism continues. In his discussion of the professional v. non-professional, Shirky writes, “most professions exist because there is  scare resource that requires ongoing management” (p. 57).  He adds that it is hard for professionals to see the big picture when the scarcity goes away. I especially enjoyed that he include the example of “librarians are responsible for organizing books on the shelves,” as the idea of librarians as professionals and the idea of a need for librarians is changing just as it is in the journalism world.

In comparison to journalists, librarians did not initially realize the real problems the Internet could cause for libraries. I’m sure that for reference librarians (the people that will find any and all information you need, basically doing your research for you) the Internet was a blessing because it would have made their jobs much easier. However, with the Internet making it so easy to look things up, less people call or come to the library for assistance in this area. So there’s one big societal change for libraries.

Another is the idea that libraries will eventually cease to exist — much like newspapers — because electronic books will increase in popularity. Libraries have seen an increase in popularity for e-books so it does change how librarians work, but people tend to forget the many jobs of a librarian. So while — like journalists — the job of a librarian may change, libraries will continue.

The example of the scribes and the printing press was successful in showing how societal shifts can change your job outlook. I especially enjoyed Shirky’s quote, “the medium undermined the message” (p. 68) in reference to how an attempt to acknowledge the scribe’s need for the job, the message utilized the printing press to be distributed more quickly and to more people.

The other two chapters assigned this week in Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody” discussed the overwhelming number of unfiltered and unedited posts all over the web and the backstory to a popular website. Shirky’s explanation of the start of Wikipedia.org was an interesting and intriguing story. For those of you that don’t know how the site got its start, Ch. 5 is a good read.

Besides the book, I read an article by Jay Rosen titled “The Twisted Psychology of Blogger vs. Journalists: My Talk at South by Southwest.” This was a good article on the ongoing “battle” of bloggers and journalists. Rosen provides good examples from both sides of how they see the other. Bloggers were described as “socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting,” while journalists apparently don’t waste your time. Specifically I found Rosen’s discussion of the idea of bloggers replacing journalists to be quite interesting. His best line in relation to this idea of replacement is “This fantasy of replacement comes almost exclusively from the journalist’s side, typically connected to fears for a lost business model.”

Give this article a read and while you’re at it explore Jeff Jarvis’ (mentioned in the article) book “What Would Google Do?” It’s a good read too.

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One comment

  1. Excellent application of these issues to libraries. And I agree with you on What Would Google Do? – I’m having my current #jpreneur class read that now. 🙂

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