In An Oozing Of Gray Sludge, Fred explains why people don’t read newspapers anymore. Journalists just aren’t that good at it, Fred claims of his fellows, as their mediocre output shows. Blogs are better, free, and free.
If Fred is right, and as a non-newspaper reader I suspect that he is, then journalism is just another entry on the list of professions which have taken on the tinge of mediocrity. The publc sector is the worst culprit, of course - no one likes DMV workers. Public school teachers have a bad rep, at least in big cities like this one where people move out of the city limits for the express purpose of finding better public schools. Tech support, whether phoned in from India or provided by your company’s local IT staff, is a good example of a private sector profession whose practitioners are frequently accused of incompetence.
I have an explanation for the growth of the mediocrity sector: brain drain caused by the growth of the non-mediocre sectors. There are too many other professions available to the sorts of smart people who once became teachers or journalists. Not only are there proprotionally more doctors, lawyers, and professors than our society previously required, but there are whole new professions: aerospace engineering, biopharmaceuticals, computer programming, etc.
You can always do something else - no one has to teach or report to earn a living. Because good teaching and journalism require both skills native to the profession and also knowledge of the field, the (potential) good teachers and journalists will always have the option of going into a particular field rather than teaching it or reporting on it. Some don’t, but the brain drain means than many do, lowering the overall quality of the profession. There is, generally speaking, more money in the field than in teaching or reporting on it. Likewise for IT - if you’re good at tech support, economic forces will push you to become a programmer.
So there’s a downside to having a big brain sector - not enough brains to go around. Combine it with a decaying industrial base and the complete disappearance of the agricultural sector, and you get a culture of inappropriate career placement - or in other words, mediocrity.