THE BLOG

Journalism Is Not a Profession

17/05/2013 17:54 BST | Updated 17/07/2013 10:12 BST

JOURNALISM is not a profession. It is an activity.

It is not, cannot and should not, be placed in a parallel category to law and medicine.

It is not, except in the most extreme circumstances, societally desirable for one to do "a bit of law" or "a bit of medicine".

One is a lawyer or not a lawyer; a medical doctor or not a medical doctor. If one retires or, in some other way, falls outside the regulatory systems monitoring these professions, then one can no longer operate in their spheres. And rightly so.

Journalism is different.

It is an activity which, at its simplest, is an expression of citizenship, a manifestation of democracy. Many people do "a bit of journalism" just as some do "a bit of politics" or "a bit of art". Some of them do it well. Some not so well.

Some do journalism once a week for a national newspapers as part of a portfolio of creative activities, others do it sporadically for sparky, opinionated blogs which make little, if any, money.

As an activity, journalism cannot and should not be licensed by the state or any professional body, any more than art or political protest should.

Journalism is an activity which, when pursued with vigour and executed with skill in a spirit of disruptive yet creative mischief, should represent the antithesis of "professionalism", of regulation.

It should be the enemy of any contracted code of behaviour outside those codes imposed on all citizens and enforced by criminal and civil law.

Law and medicine are functions best embedded in the societal framework within which we all interact. That framework must be rigid to be effective, although always transparent and accessible for the purposes of inspection and repair.

Journalism is a democratic activity which, like art and political protest, should be free to wander within that framework, testing and even subverting it, subject to the law.

The drive for finely tuned and agreed "professional" behaviour, driven by the Leveson project, exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of this rapidly mutating activity.

And the absurd attempt by the Government to define hierarchies of online journalism - "micro business" blogs and the like - in revisions to its proposed Royal Charter for the press exposes this root misapprehension.

The concept of "the press" is a psychosocial projection of an idealised, containable, biddable, profession that has no reality.