Hoodwinking Journalists

Hoodwinking Journalists

If there were a prize for hoodwinking American journalists, South Carolina state representative Mike Pitts would surely be a top contender for it.

On January 19, 2016, Pitts proposed a “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law.” The law would require the SC Secretary of State to set up a panel and decide the qualifications of a journalist and to certify those who meet the standard. It would also set penalties for the offense of practicing journalism without the proper certification, much like the penalties of practicing law or medicine without a license.

Pitts’ summary of the bill read as follows:

A bill to amend the code of laws of South Carolina, 1976, by adding chapter 85 to title 40 to enact the “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law” so as to establish requirements for persons before working as a journalist for a media outlet and for media outlets before hiring a journalist; to require the establishment and operation of a responsible journalism registry by the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office; to authorize registry fees; to establish fines and criminal penalties for violation of the chapter; and for other purposes.

The outcry from journalists was immediate and shrill. For example, one reporter called the bill a “naked attack on the First Amendment” that specifies freedom of the press is a “fundamental right,” noting further that the proposal would be completely unworkable. The director of the S.C. Press Association called the bill “outrageous and unconstitutional.”

And Jonathan Anderson, Freedom of Information chair at the Society for Professional Journalists, offered this comment:

I think [Pitts] lacks an appreciation for the First Amendment, and for the country’s revolutionary history. The British crown licensed printers and required them to obtain approval for publication—that’s not how it works today, so I think it’s a ridiculous proposal. I don’t think it has any chance of passing. But I’m glad that we get to talk about the rights of the press, and I think this sheds light on the role of journalism.

In the heat of outrage, those journalists failed to see that Pitts’ bill was a hoax!

Let me repeat that—Pitt’s bill was a HOAX. What’s more, the original newspaper report had clearly indicated that fact. That report stated that Pitts’ proposal was intended “to stimulate discussion over how he sees Second Amendment rights being treated by the printed press and television news and that Pitts told them the bill was modeled on the “concealed weapons permitting law.” The paper quoted Pitts as saying, “It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms.”

The spectacle of liberal journalists confirming their own hypocrisy is entertaining but sad. They wish the second Amendment didn’t exist, so they demonize gun owners and their supporters and treat even the most carefully reasoned arguments supporting that amendment as if they were lunatic ravings. Yet when their free speech rights are threatened, they get righteous about the first amendment that protects them.

Good for Mike Pitts for exposing their double standard. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will shame journalists and persuade them to follow their code of ethics and report the news objectively.

Copyright © 2016 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero