Journalism has become ground zero for the vocation crisis

When scholars of journalism study the effects of the shrinking press corps, they usually focus on how it hurts civil society. Vast swaths of the country are at risk of becoming “news deserts,” with limited access to reliable local journalism. This state of affairs makes it harder for people to make educated decisions and is linked to reduced political engagement, research shows. What’s more, fewer reporters means less oversight of those wielding political and economic power.

But to me, those concerns – while important – ignore another issue, one that extends well beyond the news industry. As I argue with Sandra Vera-Zambrano in our new book, “The Journalist’s Predicament,” fewer people are seeing a life in news as a worthwhile career. This reflects a broader problem – namely, the ways that relentless economic pressures are pushing people away from socially important careers.As an occupation, journalism is attractive to many people because they can be paid to do work that’s interesting and socially beneficial.

In this regard, it is similar to otherwise very different jobs like nursing, teaching, social work and caregiving.

These are “vocations,” in the sense that sociologist Max Weber described them more than a century ago.

Based on strong personal commitments, vocations promise recognition and a sense of self-worth for doing work that’s connected to broader values: healing people, fighting injustice, imparting knowledge, serving the cause of democracy. –Matthew Powers, The Conversation

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