OT Licensing for Journalists

Submitted by Sambojangles on May 29th, 2010 at 1:21 AM

I just saw this on TV: A Michigan state senator is introducing a bill to license journalists, which is at least an interesting idea:


It seems that the license is an optional thing, so reporters can report without one, but it would function as a stamp of trusted and verifiable to readers. The comments on the article and reaction in general seems to be strongly against it, but my initial reaction is that it's not a bad idea. I mean, if there are licenses to be hairdressers, why can't there be licenses for journalists as well? Hopefully there would be some kind of review process so bad journalists get their licenses revoked when they deserve (you know where this is going...)

Mr. Rosenberg would probably be one who would have a license, based on his many years of reporting and writing. But, if the licensing board was competent at all (which, knowing government, it won't be), we (Brian and the MGoBoard) could probably file a grievance to have it revoked after he demonstratably failed with the Michigan investigation. Snyder and the editors at the Freep as well, obviously. A license, like the MGoPoints here would serve as an indicator of the source's trustworthiness.

Another thought about the license: it should serve as a way to legitimize bloggers. Other than the journalism degree requirement, I think Brian (plus his minions Tom, Tim and FA) would pass the requirements listed in the article. Maybe it would stop the MSM from dismissing blogs as unaccountable and fringe.



May 29th, 2010 at 2:07 AM ^

Having read this (and thus now feeling 50% dumber), I just wanted to note that hairdressers need licenses because it's a public health issue.


May 29th, 2010 at 2:10 AM ^

the Constitution is coming to mind.....although there some you would like to silence (I.E. Birkett at times and ALL FREEP). maybe someone should just censor them.....but maybe i am off base here with this

Chester Copperpot

May 29th, 2010 at 2:54 AM ^

Very interesting, I have a bachelors degree in journalism (not from UM, as I don't believe they have a journalism program), and I found, at least in my area, that several sports reporters don't even have college degrees.  Many have been around long enough and know how to write, at least in terms of print journalism, well enough that it'd be ridiculous to require one.  Meanwhile, people like myself who are/were (were in my case) trying to break into the field are having a ton of problems given the vast popularity of getting news online.  I decided to go back to school and get a master's degree in another field.

The morale of my message is that if a certification system were put in place, it won't do any good.  There will be good and bad writers out there.  A certification system would only make aspiring journalists jump through more hoops to enter the field, while current writers, no matter how much they may be despised, will get the certification and continue to piss people off in hopes of gaining more attention and getting a guest spot on Around the Horn.


May 29th, 2010 at 3:00 AM ^

Something about freedom of speech..... rightsof press.... censoring.... facism....

Yeah, let's not go down these routes.

vet them for “good moral character.” 

Makes me think of....


May 29th, 2010 at 7:32 AM ^

I believe Argentina requires a license for you to be a reporter.

That said, considering the way people freak out when the government says that you can't own a machine gun filled with armor-piercing bullets, I don't really think that requiring a license to publish a criticism of that same government is what anyone wants.

Just bring back the Fairness Doctrine and you'll solve most of your problems. People have retreated into their own ideological corners and are far dumber as a result.


May 29th, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

Anything that requires the government to ascertain what viewpoint is fair enough to be shown in the media is a bad thing.  That means Unfairness Doctrine, licensing of journalists, and all the rest.  The wall of separation between the government and religion should be a chain-link fence compared to what the wall of separation between government and media should be.

st barth

May 29th, 2010 at 9:13 AM ^

Considering the state of government in the USA, this would just add an extra layer of politics in every article written in the mainstream press.

Besides, the free market actually works pretty well with journalism.  While an outlet like Mgoblog is (at least I think it is) growing, the freep is losing circulation and will probably be out of business in another year or two.  Quality does tend to win out.

Maximinus Thrax

May 29th, 2010 at 10:26 AM ^

As a CPA, I did not feel as if there was any politics involved in the process of getting a license.  This would not muzzle the press.  There could be a peer review process.  It would just establish standards for journalism and if the writer of a story were licensed, then perhaps it would help people cut through the crap that is out there.  Presumably, as with the CPA license, the government involvement would be minimal.


May 29th, 2010 at 10:26 AM ^

Certification/licensing for fields that have public health impacts is sensible and necessary (medicine, engineering, architecture, for example), but beyond basic issues of competence, licensing does little to guarantee excellence when criteria are more subjective.

Architects need to be licensed by state to do any work larger than a certain size or type of building in this country, but every godawful ugly commercial or government building you see in your cities was designed by a licensed architect. The new city hall building going up right now in downtown A2 is a perfect example of the limits of licensing or certification when it comes to quality of design. It's horrifically ugly, IMHO.

The others here who have raised the issue of licensing and government have a good point; a licensing system for journalists is no guarantee of quality or insight, and it gives a government a tool to restrict the field for political or ideological reasons.

The solution is to improve J-schools in this country. My hunch is that the contemporary state of journalism education is horrible (as is education), and I think the problems begin there.


May 29th, 2010 at 1:16 PM ^

Its brutalist massing, industrial cladding materials, and complete lack of surface relief on its longest public side all emphasize its size and heighten its difference with its neighbors. I can't recall a building in Ann Arbor more out of scale and architectural style with its surrounding environment. It looks as though it was taken from a hip section of downtown West Berlin or Tokyo and plopped onto an empty lot in a medium-size midwestern American city.


May 29th, 2010 at 12:51 PM ^

Because of the the access so many have to the Internet and the overall demise of print, it could provide some separation between credible news sources and dudes in their basement who want to rant. Before the attacks begin, I'm not saying this would work, nor am I saying that all journalists credible (I was a newspaper reporter and editor for 15 years), but I could see this as a ploy to separate themselves from the blogging community.

As we all know, there are some outstanding blog sites (like this one) in which the creators not only disseminate information, they also adhere to journalistic standards and get the information themselves. Most don't. 

But licensing won't accomplish this, unless the standards put forth recognize journalism education and experience. And still, there will be a lot of shitty licensed reporters.