Journalists are driven by a sense of mission. Or so they say. But the public may not agree. A recent Harris Poll asked a sample of Americans to rank the relatiive prestige of 23 professions and occupations. Only 16 percent of the respondents considered journalists as having “very great prestige.” They trailed highly-rated uniformed occupations such as firefighters (63 percent) and military officers (51 percent). Of course, being journalists, we could always spin the suvey results to extract some bittersweet satisfaction from the Harris numbers.
According to the 29-year trend that Harris offered in Table 2 of its news release, journalists have been knocking around the same neighborbood since 1977 when 17 percent of respondents said they had “very great prestige.” Contrast that with lawyers, who have lost nearly half of the prestige they enjoyed in 1977 when 36 percent of the sample gave them the highest professional ranking. Even so, 21 percent of the Harris sample still rated lawyers as having very great prestige in 2006. That’s a good deal better than the perception of journalists. Remember that before you tell another lawyer joke.
FYI the prestige leader over time is the teaching profession. It has nearly doubled its ranking over the 29 years of the survey. Among the 1,020 adults surveyed by Harris in July 2006, 52 percent rated teachers as having “very great prestige.”
The Josh Wolf factor. Does the fact that federal prosecutors want the unpublished videos of freelance journalist Josh Wolf (pictured above) have anything to do with journalism’s prestige plateau? Or does low prestige invite prosecutorial interest?
I visited Wolf’s blog and clicked on “donate” to put a few bucks into his defense fund. If you have the time and the money please do the same. I’m sure that being locked up in a federal prison has affected his prestige and he would surely appreciate the help.