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Anyone Can Be A Journalist

Written by on February 15, 2012

Earlier today, Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC, said that his job was not to hire journalists, but to hire smart people who understand the world:

This whole concept of journalist has to be rethought. I'm sorry, I don't care about journalists. I want fair minded, smart people who understand the world, who can interpret it and if they're journalists, great. This notion that somehow you have to have done something to earn so-called journalist credentials? Stop. Stop ...I think it's unfair.

It reminded me of one of the greatest movies I have ever seen: Pixar's Ratatouille. The movie is about how somebody, who isn't part of the traditional establishment, can make something greater than the ones who are.

There are two quotes, in particular, that I think sums up the whole story. The first one is when the Skinner, the Master Chef, finds that this 'boy', who isn't an educated chef, is cooking in his kitchen:

The soup. Where is the soup? Out of my way. Move it, garbage boy! You are COOKING? HOW DARE YOU COOK in my kitchen! Where do you get the gall to even attempt something so monumentally idiotic? I should have you drawn and quartered! I'll do it! I think the law is on my side! Larousse, draw and quarter this man - after you put him in the duck press to squeeze the fat out of his head!

He is outraged by this amateur who dares to do the work of professionals.

The other is when the renowned food critic, Anton Ego, learns that the best meal he ever had was from a person who wasn't educated in the traditional way, nor part of the traditional establishment:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.
Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more.

This should sound familiar if you are working in the newspaper industry. In fact, let me rephrase those quotes:

Skinner being the traditional newspaper editor, who are outraged by the audacity of 'amateurs' who think they can report the news.

The article. Where is the article? Out of my way. Move it, garbage boy! You are writing? HOW DARE YOU WRITE in my newspaper! Where do you get the gall to even attempt something so monumentally idiotic? I should have you drawn and quartered!

And Anton Ego, the reader, who suddenly realizes that a blog was more valuable to him than his trusty old newspaper.

The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary post from a singularly unexpected blog. To say that both the article and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about great journalism is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Editor Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can write. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great writer, but a great writer can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now writing at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest journalist in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, eager for more.

This is the reality of the connected world. In the past, market limitations restricted journalism to a small group of professionals, but today "Not everyone can become a great writer, but a great writer can come from anywhere".

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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