Shall we license journalists?

A scary thought is hidden in NBC News president Neil Shapiro’s thoughtful op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on the need for a federal shield law for journalists. Shapiro compares journalists with psychologists, lawyers and doctors, each of whom have federal protections for confidentiality.

Unfortunately, there is no federal statute that supports the rights of journalists to protect confidential sources. The law provides confidentiality for psychotherapists, lawyers and doctors. It is high time journalists were added to the list. If sources can’t be assured of confidentiality, they will be reluctant to come forward to the press. And if they don’t confide in the press, wrongdoing could remain undisclosed.
The problem, of course, is how does the government determine who’s a journalist and who isn’t? The professions that Shapiro lists all require licensing of some sort. Is that where we’re headed?

Add to that the current war of words between the MSM and the blogosphere over who qualifies as a journalist, and you see the problem.

Journalism isn’t a profession; it’s a trade (or, as Glenn Reynolds says, it’s an activity). Shapiro’s statement, however well intentioned, is evidence of media elitism and doesn’t reflect the reality that we have the First Amendment, and professional licensees don’t.

Comments

  1. “Shall we license journalists?” is a hot question everywhere actually and hide deeper questions about what readers really want…

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