Who's afraid of Joe the Journalist? Unlike Phillips, I do not begrudge anyone an unconventional path to journalism. On the Internet, conservative bloggers with full-time day jobs have done incredible investigative work without a journalism school credit to their names. So have independent war correspondents like Michael Totten (blogger) and Michael Yon (Special Forces veteran).
Groupthink, credential fetishism and the Sorbonne mentality have turned national newsrooms into stale echo chambers. For all its self-aggrandizing paeans to "diversity," mainstream American journalism remains one of the most intellectually and ideologically monochrome sectors of the public square.
Territorial liberal journalism gurus have attempted to de-legitimize unorthodox practitioners of their trade by redefining "journalism" based on content. If a conservative writer breaks news harmful to their presidential pick or contrary to their worldview, it's a "hit piece," not investigative reporting. If a conservative website interviews newsmakers or provides original legislative analysis, it's "propaganda," not explanatory or expository journalism. Thus, the myth that conservatives don't "do journalism" persists. By their definition, we never can.
Joe the Plumber's new gig is an affront to the Fraternal Order of The Professional Journalist because it underscores hard truths: An Ivy League journalism degree does not a truth-teller make. International war broadcasting experience does not a truth-seeker make. Look at Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post fabulist Janet Cooke. Or New York Times fiction writer Jayson Blair. Or Boston Globe fabricators Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle. Or former CBS News Captain Queeg Dan Rather.
Or closer to the action in Gaza, witness the veteran editors of Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj, who succeeded in peddling Photoshopped images of fake smoke billows and flares over Beirut in 2006 before bloggers blew the whistle.
Or consider the Hamas sympathizers at France 2. The international TV network was forced to apologize this week for its false story on Israel's military operations. Independent French bloggers showed that France 2 used an old 2005 amateur video of Palestinian casualties from an accidental Hamas truck explosion and passed it off as current footage demonstrating the violence in Gaza. France 2 was the same professional media outlet that aired a bogus September 2000 report blaming the Israeli army for the shooting death of a Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura.
Joe the Plumber-Turned-Reporter can't do any more to harm journalistic credibility than the "credible journalists" have already done.