A Michigan lawmaker says people have the right to know reporters are credible and have “good moral character,” so he’s proposed a procedure to license journalists and document their credentials, background and experience.
But the plan by Sen. Bruce Patterson, a Republican from the state’s 7th district, is going nowhere, according to a government watchdog organization, because it would “step on” the U.S Constitution.
The plan by Patterson was reported by Fox News, which said Patterson cited the state’s ability already to license professions such as automobile mechanics, plumbers and hairdressers.
Patterson cited the importance of accurate information in today’s world.
“We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source,” he told Fox.
He reported that he had run into reporters in Michigan state political coverage who work for publications he’s never seen, and a process to vet those workers would be appropriate.
His bill would have reporters provide to state officials documentation of their good moral character and their ability to operate by ethics standards “acceptable to the board.”
Patterson, whose plan initially would be voluntary, also suggests requiring a degree in journalism or other “substantially equivalent” degree and not less than three years experience as a reporter, Fox said.
However, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity said the plan is a nonstarter.
“By introducing a bill to license journalists, Michigan state Sen. Bruce Patterson is attempting to control the press and is stepping on constitutional protections,” said Jason Stverak, chief of the organization that promotes social welfare and civil betterment through programs that promote journalism and the education of the public about corruption and fraud in government.
“There is a reason why this is a single sponsor bill and has not received much support in the legislature,” Stverak said.
The center, founded last year, is a nonpartisan group that believes new technology can advance the cause of transparency in government.
Stverak noted components of the “traditional media” are laying off staff members and failing to meet the needs of the public at the same time journalists are needed to monitor politicians and elected officials.
“Our country needs more watchful eyes on our elected officials, not legislation that outlaws the truth from emerging,” Stverak said.
While Patterson told Fox that his plan may not have the support to become law, he said he wanted to raise the issue of how hard it is to determine who is a journalist.
WND columnist Andrea Shea King has written about the new media and its impact.
“The shift from the way we traditionally got our news in the past to today’s instant communication is revolutionary. Some compare it to the invention of the printing press. Whether it’s social media sites like Twitter or news sites catered towards citizen journalism, the active voice of the eyewitness is now a significant part of any story taking place in the world,” she reported.