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Would classifying journalism as a "profession" violate the 1st amendment?

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W_HAMILTON Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 05:57 AM
Original message
Would classifying journalism as a "profession" violate the 1st amendment?
Wikipedia defines profession as "a vocation founded upon specialised educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain."

Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. usually are required to adhere to a code of ethics in addition to passing tests that certify a certain level of knowledge about the profession they are entering.

I watched MSNBC yesterday, and at several different times, people were criticizing the teabagger types for their language, while their defenders were essentially saying, "what are you going to do, restrict what they are going to say?" I agree that you can't restrict what is said, but what other option is there to keep lies and propaganda from being on the same footing as the truth?

I figure one option would be adding journalism to the list of professions, and require that they abide by a code of ethics and pass a test regularly to demonstrate their knowledge of what they report. This does not take away people like Hannity or Beck from being able to spew their lies, but it would certify others as being a trustworthy source of journalism for those that want that from their news.
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ixion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 06:02 AM
Response to Original message
1. what you're watching isn't "journalism" by any stretch. It's infotainment.
Real journalists are taught to strive for objectivity and factual accuracy, and stake their professional reputation on it. There isn't one -- not one -- MSM 'news' outlet that follows these core standards.
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rucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 06:06 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. Yep. And it should be labeled as such.
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 06:06 AM by rucky
Miracle Whip isn't Mayonnaise, and it would be misleading to the consumer to label it that way.
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rucky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 06:04 AM
Response to Original message
2. That's exactly what needs to happen.
Those professions also do a good job in policing themselves, because they know that public trust is essential to success in their jobs.

I was in journalism for 10 years, and I got to see how ethics became less and less of a commodity as corporate consolidation moved in. Then I got out.
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DailyGrind51 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 06:05 AM
Response to Original message
3. There are no true journalists anymore!
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RandomThoughts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 06:36 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. There are plenty of journalists with ethics.
Some are even on TV. But most would not get hired, because some people would not want you to hear what they would say.


The way to solve the problem is to have competition where a news network, or Internet source that tells more truth, is regarded higher. Although the profit motive does not always do that if interest are interlocked by group or organization.

Is there a societal responsibility of journalism? If someone lies and calls it news, are they bound by any regulations about truth in advertisement?



But to be fair, I hear many points of views on some news channels. And there are some good journalist. And one station even has many comments about problems with things like the banks.
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dems_rightnow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 06:43 AM
Response to Original message
6. I volunteer to chair the Truth Committee
... who gets to decide what is Truth and what is Propaganda. Incredible power.
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W_HAMILTON Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:28 AM
Response to Reply #6
13. Not really.
It's not necessarily about truth and propaganda, it's about truth and lies. We already have fact-checking organizations. I am actually surprised that they haven't been more readily integrated into current news programs. Considering everyone already speaks in talking points, how hard is it to fact-check them and respond immediately after you have a speaker on? For instance, the talk of more taxpayer-funded bailouts in the new bank regulation bill. As far as I have heard, this is blatently wrong. If you have a speaker on that says this bill is designed to increase the likelihood of more taxpayer bailouts, that is incorrect and should be immediately corrected.
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onenote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:58 AM
Response to Reply #13
17. you have just demonstrated the problem with your idea
You indicate that "as far as I have heard" the "talk of more taxpayer funded bailouts in the new bank regulation bill" is "blatantly wrong."

Well, the problem is that there is very little in complex legislation such as the financial reform bill that is completely black and white with no shades of gray. And there is little in the statements made by those appearing on or quoted on news shows that is black and white either, or at least not in some part "opinion."

FWIW, I think the financial reform bill is a good bill and will help avoid future bailouts. Does it absolutely prevent them? No.

Here is one discussion of the bill that indicates how sound bite arguments on both sides of the issue tend to obscure the complexity and uncertainty of the matter.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/04/will-dodds-financial-reform-bill-allow-bailouts/39022/
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W_HAMILTON Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:16 PM
Response to Reply #17
22. Either there is, or there isn't.
I haven't read the actual bill, so I am trusting the credible fact-checking sites and some of the few trustworthy journalists out there. They said that there are no provisions for future taxpayer bailouts; instead, there is a fund that banks pay into themselves to provide insurance against the type of financial crisis that led us to bail them out to begin with.

I wouldn't say that is a shade of gray. Much like death panels, or being thrown in jail if you fail to buy healthcare insurance. These are blatent lies.
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alc Donating Member (649 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 06:50 AM
Response to Original message
7. classifying most of the reportering you see as journalism
is a violation of the word "journalism".
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ProgressiveProfessor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 09:31 AM
Response to Original message
8. I tend to think that journalism has never been a profession and probably never will
No license, no standards, no accountability, some colleges offering degrees. For every Cronkite or Murrow, there is a Pegler or Hopper. Does not sound real professional to me.
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eugeneliberal Donating Member (106 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:10 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. There is a code of ethics for journalists
It was pounded into us in journalism school. Unfortunately, ethics don't seem to mean much anymore.

http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
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ProgressiveProfessor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:14 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. Its given lip service at best
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laughingliberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:19 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. Yes, I remember a strong emphasis on ethics when I majored in journalism in the 70's
I think often how what I witness passing as journalism these days wouldn't have flown with the editors of our college paper.
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fishwax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:21 AM
Response to Original message
12. yes, requiring testing and licensing would violate the 1st amenment
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W_HAMILTON Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:29 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. How so?
It would not limit free speech at all. People are still welcome to say the same things they say now. But if they are not certified, people will think twice about accepting what they say as fact.
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fishwax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:33 AM
Response to Reply #14
15. so then journalists aren't really required to take the test?
You can take the test and get the license if you want to be a "government certified journalist" but you don't have to?
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W_HAMILTON Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:22 PM
Response to Reply #15
23. Nope.
You take the test, abide by the oath, and become certified because you want to set yourself apart as a trustworthy public servant that has pledged to serve the best interest of the public by adhering to the standards set forth by the profession.

And it wouldn't have to be government-controlled. The AICPA (for accountants) is a private body. I'm sure this is the case for many professions.
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fishwax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 03:14 PM
Response to Reply #23
28. that seems like a different proposal than in the OP
which spoke of requiring licensing and exams.

If the government was involved (optional or otherwise) it would be a violation of the first amendment. I don't think there's anything legally stopping a private organization (a theoretical American Institute of Journalists, for example) from certifying journalists if they wanted to, such that no journalist would be able to use the "AIJ" seal of approval without qualifying--but I'm not sure such a system would have a great deal of impact.

For one thing, media organizations tend to view their own brand as an indicator of journalistic integrity, and I don't think they'd be keen to surrender that responsibility to outside forces. And if the companies themselves didn't more highly value AIJ certification, then employees wouldn't likely find it worthwhile.

For another thing, journalists and/or organizations who couldn't (or didn't want to) qualify for AIJ certification could simply create an alternative organization (the National Institute of Journalists, for instance) and offer NIJ certification. Then media consumers would be in the position of deciding whether they find AIJ journalists or NIJ journalists more trustworthy, which isn't substantially different from deciding if MSNBC or Fox News is more trustworthy.
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onenote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 10:38 AM
Response to Reply #12
16. correct. it would be an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech
As Chief Justice Hughes wrote 72 years ago:

The struggle for the freedom of the press was primarily directed against the power of the licensor. It was against that power that John Milton directed his assault by his "Appeal for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing." And the liberty of the press became initially a right to publish "without a license what formerly could be published only with one." While this freedom from previous restraint upon publication cannot be regarded as exhausting the guaranty of liberty, the prevention of that restraint was a leading purpose in the adoption of the constitutional provision.


Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, 451 (1938)
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W_HAMILTON Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:25 PM
Response to Reply #16
24. But you are assuming a restraint.
There would be no restraint. Nothing that goes on now would be restrained from going on under my plan. The difference is certified journalists can wear that as a badge of honor that they are trustworthy sources of news.
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onenote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. the founding fathers presumed a restraint
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 03:00 PM by onenote
That's what Hughes is saying. Licensing is regarded as a prior restraint because it puts the ability of the press (broadly defined) to speak at the mercy of the government giving it a license.

The licensing of a broadcast station is a prior restraint. The courts allowed it because of the scarcity of spectrum -- the inability of everyone to be a broadcaster. However, even though the government's interest in managing the public spectrum allows it to license the use of that spectrum, the courts have made it clear that broadcasters still have first amendment rights.

Justice Douglas, no slouch when it comes to progressive thinking, had the following to say about the scope of the First Amendment:

"My conclusion is that TV and radio stand in the same protected position under the First Amendment as do newspapers and magazines. The philosophy of the First Amendment requires that result, for the fear that Madison and Jefferson had of government intrusion is perhaps even more relevant to TV and radio than it is to newspapers and other like publications. That fear was founded not only on the spectre of a lawless government but of government under the control of a faction that desired to foist its views of the common good on the people. In popular terms that view has been expressed as follows:

'The ground rules of our democracy, as it has grown, require a free press, not necessarily a responsible or a temperate one. There aren't any halfway stages. As Aristophanes saw, democracy means that power is generally conferred on second-raters by third-raters, whereupon everyone else, from first-raters to fourth-raters, moves with great glee to try to dislodge them. It's messy but most politicians understand that it can't very well be otherwise and still be a democracy.' Stewart, reviewing Epstein, News From Nowhere: Television and the News (1972), Book World, Washington Post, March 25, 1973, pp. 4-5.
COLUMBIA BROADCASTING v. DEMOCRATIC COMM., 412 U.S. 94 (1973)(Douglas concurring).

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AnArmyVeteran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 11:26 AM
Response to Original message
18. How about notices stating "This Person is NOT a Journalist, he's a Opinion Generator" warning???
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 11:35 AM by AnArmyVeteran
It wouldn't violate any first amendment laws to force networks to place scrollers or logos underneath a speaker stating, "This person is not a journalist. Everything he says is opinion only". Although Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh have admitted they are not journalists, their audiences believe everything they are being told, as if they were credible journalists.

We have warnings to protect us from the goods produced in most industries. Why not warnings to protect us from deliberate lies and deceit? All of those get-rich-quick schemes and weight loss television ads are required to have small print at the bottom of the screen to warn the viewer 'results are not typical'. Those warnings are to protect people from being swindled out of money. Why shouldn't Hannity, Beck or other talking heads, whether on right or left-leaning shows, be required to have "This Show is Opinion" warnings? Shows where journalists spoke could be exempted from that requirement. And if a journalist is found to have deliberately dispersed incorrect information several times without issuing a correction then he could no longer be considered a journalist, and if he appeared on television again he would be labeled as an 'Opinion Generator'. Right wing Fox News viewers believe everything they hear and see on Fox, without thought and without question, and certainly without doing fact checks. I've noticed on responsible networks that if a mistake was made they immediately issue an on-air correction. But has anyone noticed if Fox News has ever done that in its history? Just one example?

I like the OP's idea about licensing journalists. But there aren't very many left to license. The media of today is corporate-owned, so everything must go through a corporate filter before it's allowed to be aired. Beginning in the 1980s journalist started to dwindle because big corporate media organizations realized they could maximize their profits by covering sensationalistic stories a lot cheaper than stories which required a lot of thorough investigations with real journalists. I believe any licensing should be done from within a profession, without government involvement to avoid government meddling in 'freedom of the press'.

BTW, guess when infomercials were first allowed to be aired? It was during Reagan's first term. And for the first time, Reagan also allowed doctors, lawyers and pharmaceutical companies to advertise. Now, drug makers spend more money on advertising than they do on research. Right wingers whine and moan about the government coming between their doctors and themselves, but say nothing when a pharmaceutical company does the same thing by telling you how you need their drugs. They are coming between doctors and patients. And they are doing it for profit.




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fishwax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 11:33 AM
Response to Reply #18
19. um, yes, that would violate the first amendment
"It wouldn't violate any first amendment laws to force networks to place scrollers or logos underneath a speaker stating, "This person is not a journalist. Everything he says is opinion only"."
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AnArmyVeteran Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 11:41 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. How so? They would still have their right to speak, but they would be properly labeled.
It is not restricting what a person says. But it would identify the person as an opinion maker or a journalist. If we can warn people about the amount of saturated fat in a can of soup then why can't we warn people about whether a person is an opinion maker or journalist? What people say can lead to more harm than the fat content in soup...
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fishwax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 11:46 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. it would clearly abridge the freedom of the press
:shrug:

Nutritional labels aren't remotely comparable.
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onenote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 03:02 PM
Response to Reply #20
26. First.. Define "journalist". Second, free speech is not only the right to speak
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 03:04 PM by onenote
Its also the right not to have words put in your mouth.
Thus, it has been held to be unconstitutional to force a utility company to include messages from consumer groups in its bills. It has been held unconstitutional to force a newspaper to print letters to the editor.

Plus,your standard -- "journalism v. opinion" -- is vague in the extreme. To have the government sitting in judgment as to what is opinion and what is "journalism" when historically the entire concept of a free press has reflected the blurring of the lines between the two would be horrific.
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Posteritatis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 03:04 PM
Response to Original message
27. Yay! Government-endorsed reality certificates! How could that possibly be abused? (nt)
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