Charlie Gibson Recycles Joke About Amateurish Bloggers As 'Citizen Surgeons'
In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, ABC anchorman Charles Gibson plays the scold of newfangled Internet news and citizen bloggers: He "knows people are curious, but he is concerned that when users make their own Internet front pages, those pages will focus on gossip instead of solid information. He thinks old-fashioned journalism is underrated these days." Then there's this:
"It's important to have people with a lot of experience putting together what you need to know," he said. "Maybe I'm sticking my head in the sand, but I still think there is still a tremendous role for mainstream media." He's also a little dubious about self-appointed Internet journalists. He said he was on a panel with retired Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee when someone asked Bradlee what he thought about citizen reporters. Gibson said Bradlee replied, "I don't know. What do you think of citizen surgeons?"
What a typical Ben Bradlee quote, chock full of media-elite arrogance. It quickly reminds me of something Brent Baker said at MRC HQ a long time ago. When we were talking about how some journalists might mock us startup-conservative-newsletter MediaWatch media critics as amateurs, he said we're as much experts on the media as the media are on all the professions that they attack. Ben Bradlee would obviously feel free as an editor to rip away at the malpractice of surgeons without having a surgery degree. He would feel free as an editor to rip politicians to pieces without a law degree or a Master's in public administration. He would feel free as an editor to rip apart inefficient pilots without a second's instruction in flight training, or attack the actions of soldiers without a moment in military service.
It might seem unreasonable to insist that journalists, who are often generalists trying to assemble a story on the fly within a daily grind measured in hours, to be credentialed experts on everything. But it is also unreasonable for journalists to assume with great arrogance that their Internet critics need to go to the media equivalent of surgeon's schooling before they are qualified to judge the Bradlees and the Gibsons.