I would say, outside of maybe the ability to write prose longer and more polished, I am hard pressed to see game journalists being more competent and professional than a number of better posters on here. Can anyone fill me in exactly what they do differently that has them doing what they do for a living compared to people who post on here for free? In more extreme cases of them, they get WAY out there, like the way people do on here.
As I see it, journalism in general (not specifically a game press) is a form of mass consciousness, that interpret reality and makes intellectual patterns out of it that are easily consumable by general public, thus influence people by forming a specific world-view. Despite how insignificant gaming might occur it demonstrates how this self-regulating, though not essentially protected from outside influence, mechanism works in a nutshell. Everyone who has been on gaming forums for year or two should have been familiar with few ineradicable and inherent to various groups of gamers myths and dozens of their derivatives, which exist for decades. Though the latter is understandable, as long as human cognition for the most part works on the basis of myth. Of course, even not being a professional journalist everyone who communicates - participates by influencing and being influenced, but professionals got bigger outlets and in general do it better regarldess of how competent what they say is.
Confusion arises why certain professional journalist despite seemingly not being more competent than regular forum posters are getting paid when you're not? The reason for confusion is misconception about professional journalists key function in said mechanism, which practically the same as the function of various other 'professional' participants of information field we're living in. Say, let's take Michael Pachter for example. How competent he is? Very much, in fact, because the whole point of analyst to make predictions is to manipulate public and, more importantly, investors' opinion. It's not his job to inform anyone by making right predictions. The same could be seen in the world outside of gaming. Last year there were couple of lawsuits against few US CRAs, as if those agencies wasn't competent enough, or nobody among insiders wasn't aware of the fact that ratings were shamelessly overrated.