JOURNALISTS MUST BE LICENSED AND REGULATED

They once called our journalists and news reporting organizations the fourth tier of government, right after the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches provided for by our Constitution.  But that was then, and this is now — and I really miss what it was, “then”.

When I was barely 12 years old, I read at least two and sometimes three newspapers front to back every day.  They were the Palo Alto Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and if I could get it, the Wall Street Journal.  It provided me with an adult source of reliable information that expanded on what I was learning in school.  My city newspaper told me what was going on locally and the San Francisco source told me what was going on in California as well as the nation.  The WSJ kept me abreast of financial developments.

Our news back then was an invaluable educational tool because Journalists were honest about reporting just the factual news, leaving it up to the readers to interpret what it meant.  But if you are so stupid you subscribe to a newspaper today, all you are doing is paying good money for unrelibale bias and, increasingly often, outright lies!

My local newspaper, the Medford Mail Tribune, once earned a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on corruption in Oregon.  But that was many years ago, and the M/T is now about as reliable as a broken leg!  The only people still subscribing to the M/T are either wilful ignoramuses or they need to scan the advertisements.  But nobody subscribes to the M/T today because they want the unbiased, unspun truth anymore because it is nowhere to be found.  As far as I’m concerned, today’s mainstream news is committing consumer fraud and they should be sued for it in a class action.  The lies interspersed with the truth make today’s newspapers as unreliable as the boy who yelled wolf — meaning we don’t know what to believe, so we tend not to believe any of it now, and that’s a terrible loss to our society.

Which brings me to the title of this article.  Accurately delivered, unbiased and unspun news is what we all want, need and expect.  Nobody in their right mind wants to pay to be lied to!  In fact, one way or another, we are all paying for the unbiased accuracy we currently are not getting through product costs that include the manufacturer’s cost of advertising in those same newspapers.  So I have come to believe journalists should be licensed and regulated no differently than insurance agents or real estate agents.  It is a crime for an insurance agent or real estate agent to lie to a client, and doing so can cause license suspension or revocation, meaning they can’t be in that business anymore.  Well our news sources should be licensed and regulated to assure the same standards!  We are clients of the news service, so why is it still legal for that news source to lie to us?  Isn’t accurately-reported, unbiased and unspun information vital to all of us in many ways?  The obvious answer is yes.

I can just hear the chorus from the journalists now:  “You can’t do that!  That will interfere with a free press”!  That’s their stock answer, and if they were providing their lies for free, I’d be likely to accept it.  But these liars and usurpers are getting paid good money to lie to us all now, and it is far from harmless.  Bad information is harmful, while accurate knowledge is power, but we are powerless and prone to error because we’re not getting accurate information.

I realize such proposed licensing and regulations need to be somewhat flexible.  For example, it is sometimes absolutely necessary for a journalist to keep an unnamed source unnamed for the source’s protection and to assure them the same anonymity if they want to make future anonymous disclosures.  I don’t have a problem with that, but if it turns out the information is proved false later, then sanctions against that journalist’s license are appropriate because the journalist obviously used poor judgment relying on an unproven and unreliable source for their story.  Do that, and the majority of reporting based on unnamed and anonymous sources will dry up rather abruptly.

So if a news reporting agency of any kind is being paid to tell us the full truth of a matter, they must report the true facts in an unbiased and unspun manner.  If a journalist wants to give his/her biased opinion on an issue, that’s okay too, so long as it is on the Opinion/Editorial page and not represented as fact on the front page of the newspaper.  A perfect example of this is Medford Mail Tribune Publisher Steve Saslow, who arrived here from Pennsylvania with money to burn on a total loser of a newspaper.  That man allowed a front page, above the fold headline to appear on his newspaper that was so misleading and biased that anyone who casually saw the headline without reading the whole article to the very end, would have come away with a completely different impression of the truth.  When I questioned him about it, he told me the headline was, “opinion”.  No, Stevie boy, opinions do not belong on the factual news section of the newspaper, unless of course the Publisher wants to mislead the reader.

So if a journalist reports the news accurately without personal bias, no problem.  If a journalist does not maintain that standard, then they lose their journalism license and go pump gas down at the corner store.  If the government enforces ethical journalism by law, instead of displaced trust, then finally, we might begin to get the unvarnished and valuable truth again, like I did when I was 12.

 

Carl F. Worden

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