Monday, October 10, 2005

Journalism Licensing Test Question: Discuss the Irony of Having to Take This Test

Atrios is correct in his reaction to a proposed bill which would create a special class of people called "the press"
It isn't about creating a special class of people who are above the law, it's about understanding that certain types of activities deserve certain protections because it's in the public interest to preserve the ability of people - all people - to engage in those activities if they so choose.

It's not like being a doctor or a police officer which requires special training and oversight. No one has to have a degree, certificate, or to have passed a test to be a journalist. No one has to join a club, a guild, a union, or a secret society to be a journalist. No one has to be able to get a job at a newspaper or television station, or a press pass to the White House or a sporting event to be a journalist. No one needs anyone else's permission to be a journalist. You can just do it.

At least for now.

If there is no obvious criterion for making one a journalist, how can there be a protection for such a class of people? As the article Atrios links to states, journalists would have to be licensed. By the State. Even though the First Amendment says the State can't make any laws which would abridge the freedom of the press (which, in the 18th century meant publishing in general, not journalism, so, yes, blogging is covered).

But if a person is protected simply for who they are, then that means people like Judith Miller (who inspired this piece of dreck legislation) can gather and disperse information for political purposes without having written or having planned to write an article, and still be protected simply because she passed a state test for approval.

I wonder if there will be a question on the First Amendment in that test.

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