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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
3:22 AM Sun, Oct. 21st

Point-Counterpoint: Should journalists be licensed?

YES

The President of the United States has called the media an “enemy of the people.” The public’s approval rating of the media is nearly as bad as their opinion of Congress.

Yes, that bad.

There are committed journalists who have risked their lives, and in some cases given their lives, trying to be the watchdogs of government and society that is an integral part of living in a democracy. If there is no free press, there is no freedom.

Would licensing journalists help improve our credibility with the public and restore some faith in our profession? Probably not, we’ll always be a target of those who don’t like the message and blame the messenger.

Still, it could be done. First, it can’t be done by any government body. But, a self-regulating entity might be one way to raise standards and improve confidence. Model it similar to the American Bar Association. Journalists that join would have to agree to standards, and be held responsible if they don’t uphold them.

It would be one way to identify real news outlets from the fake versions. Facebook and Twitter could agree to only repost/retweet articles from organizations certified by this national body. It would help the White House and sports teams know who is certified and deserves a credential, and who is just running a blog read by 10 people, their relatives and friends.

And it would show the public that journalists want to have their confidence and are taking steps to weed out those among our profession who do not uphold our high standards of fairness and balance.]

Self-regulation is the only way it can work and keep the press free, but it could work and it might help improve the public’s opinion of the media.

- Ken Sain

NO

It is no surprise to hear a call for journalists be required to earn a license so they can practice journalism, like attorneys do to practice law.

With the proliferation of “fake news,” blogs (real blogs not article comments), and biased reporters and anchormen, I believe journalism must improve.

First, readers must learn what journalism is; social media is not journalism and not everything on the internet is to be believed.

However, licensing journalists is beyond reason – because to license someone means you also must be ready to take that license away, should they do their job unethically or incorrectly.

And to do that says you must have someone – a person or board – who fairly judges what journalists do.

There is no way that the media – press, broadcast and internet – could ever agree on standards and a licensing entity; thus, the licensing would fall to the government.

That is a bad, bad idea.

The Founding Fathers established this country with a separation between the press and government. If the government licensed journalists, it also could take those licenses away or deny them for reporters it saw as unworthy.

Not to make a joke, but what is “it” – in other words, who would judge this?

President Bill Clinton would have put a stop to photos of Monica Lewinsky, just as Richard Nixon would have loved to quash coverage of Watergate.

Licensing, folks, would say the First Amendment is not enough.

I am an enormous admirer of Winston Churchill, and though he is not the best example for this argument, his words in 1949 cut to the heart of the matter:

“A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. Where men have the habit of liberty the Press will continue to be the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.”

Licensing (read: control) of the media undercuts a free press.

- Tim Wiederaenders