Online media CEO Linda Wood recently testified to the Canadian parliamentary Heritage Committee that ‘in the same way that lawyers have to be certified, we could have those kinds of structures for journalism because right now, we’re in a pretty dangerous situation.’ Should journalists be required to earn a license in order to practice journalism?
Carson is a journalism and political science double major. She currently serves as the opinions editor for the student-run newspaper, the Clarion.
After the 2016 presidential election, many questioned the role “fake news” had on the results, causing a general fear among the public that unreliable journalism is much more harmful than previously believed. So Linda Wood’s comments comes as no surprise, as it only voices the fear and concern that many others similarly have. How can we make sure that news is reliable and trustworthy?
While wanting news to be reliable is understandable, we must remember that journalism isn’t made trustworthy by making the career less accessible. There is plenty of good, honest journalism that comes from underground blogs and websites, and from people who have never taken proper journalism classes. Likewise, there is plenty of faulty, deceptive journalistic work from those who have a degree in the subject.
Without citizen journalism, it is arguable that the coverage of protests like those in the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota would not be as valuable. In fact, the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline relied heavily on citizen journalism to spread the word of the events happening on the reservation. Citizen journalism covers what major media cannot, and this would not be possible if every journalist needed to be licensed.
As a student journalist for the University of Denver’s student-run newspaper, the Clarion, I am not yet “certified” to be a journalist, as I have not yet earned my degree. Yet those who write for our paper play a vital role in reporting the news on campus, as well as voicing the opinion of the students. Without these reporters, there would be no one to lift student voice and highlight events on campus. Writing before we are qualified gives us experience, which in turn, makes us more qualified to be journalists once we receive our degrees.
Giving the government the power to decide who should or shouldn’t be able to provide news threatens freedom of press. All people should have the right to convey opinions and information in writing, whether anyone deems them qualified to do so or not. To censor who can and cannot convey information is to limit the access to information to the public. It is important that all voices are able to be heard, not just those the government chooses qualified.
Steve Henson, 62, managing editor and editorial page editor, The Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain
Henson has worked in the media industry for 43 years. He is a past president and board chairman of the Colorado Press Association.
Our profession didn’t exactly shine this past election cycle.
It was evident that subscriptions and clicks drove the agendas of TV networks and national newspapers. During the primary election cycle, for example, one network turned into (almost) Trump TV 24/7 with carefully selected talking (screaming) heads to endlessly regurgitate every statement, word and comma.
Add to that the barrage of fake news stories, of endless claims and vicious debates on social media such as Twitter, and it’s not surprising that Americans don’t know which media outlets or individuals they can trust.
Nor is it surprising that some want journalists to be licensed.
However, that is a terrible idea that all media—from the local citizen writing a regular blog about the local school board to the finest New York Times reporter—must oppose.
The problem lies in who would do the licensing. Since there is no way that the press, broadcast and internet media could ever come together, set standards and form a licensing entity—we wouldn’t want to do that anyway—the licensing would be handled by the government.
And that’s the reason this is a bad idea.
The Founders passionately believed a separation needed to exist between the press and government. If the government licensed journalists, it also could deny licenses to those reporters or institutions it deemed unworthy.
Imagine if Richard Nixon would have had the power to take away the licenses of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It’s likely we never would have known about Watergate.
Imagine if someone on a licensing board were a devout Catholic and insisted on denying licenses to the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. The Globe’s stories that exposed the church’s vast scheme to hide pedophiles and other religious who sexually assaulted their flock likely wouldn’t have been printed.
In the end, any “licensing” must be performed by readers and viewers, who have and will judge each media’s reports by the standards of fairness and accuracy. If we fail, we will lose those readers, viewers and followers.
Control the media, our Founders argued, and you lose your democracy. That should be the end of the argument regarding licensing journalists.