The Star Tribune quoted Richard Flory, CRCC director of research, about the role of journalists throughout history.
What happened? While a variety of factors contributed to religion’s decline as a cultural authority — a source of truth and a guide to behavior — a campaign to increase journalism’s influence and undermine religion’s credibility played a major role, according to historian Richard Flory of the University of Southern California.
During the 19th century, Flory explains, newsmen were low on the social totem pole. As a group, they were considered “cynical, unlettered, sharp as a knife,” as one critic put it. Their image was that of being willing to peddle any story that might sell a paper.
As the 20th century dawned, influential editors and publishers were determined to change this. They believed that “if journalists could be seen as competent, sober professionals, they would have a greater opportunity to influence society,” according to Flory. These “professionalizers'” aimed to increase the power, status and economic rewards of journalism. Their ambitious goal was to establish journalism in the public’s mind — as prominent journalist Eric Allen put it in 1920 — as the “most important of all professions to the success of civilization.”