This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.

Today, the thrust of the Washington press corps is not expressed by the correspondent whose greatest pride is that he once covered the police beat but by the correspondent who does not hesitate to use that sticky word “professionalism.” It is probably significant that one almost never hears journalism referred to as a “game.” Instead—at least among the younger correspondents—it is often “this profession,” or “my profession.” The correspondent who will say, as one did recently to a student group, “Hell, 1et’s be honest, we’re here to have as much fun as we can,” seems to be disappearing.

One striking evidence of seriousness and purpose in the Washington press corps is reflected in Walter Lippmann’s changing opinion. He sees a profound improvement in political journalism. The difference is so great that he no longer laments, as he did in the 1920’s, that journalism is only a “refuge for the vaguely talented.”


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William L. Rivers died in 1996. After working in newspapers and magazines, he became a professor in Stanford's communications department, where he taught for 33 years.