A modest proposal

In the Facebook Friends of Best of the Web Today group, Steve Aunan asks:

When are we going to pass common sense mass media reform? Despite repeated warnings by psychiatrists and criminal justice experts to avoid sensational reporting, American journalists behave like Pavlov’s dog every time a mass shooting occurs. If our Democracy is to survive the rampant spread of Fake News and Constitutional illiteracy, America needs sensible lawmakers to enact the following regulations:

* common sense restrictions on the kinds of stories the mass media can publish
* enhanced background checks on J-school grads
* renewable permits on journalism licenses, subject to proof of competency by the permitting authority
* a mass buyout program to take irresponsible journalists off the street
* a central database of journalists to track psychotropic drug prescriptions and domestic abuse allegations

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, but the Founders never imagined that journalists would have Internet-connected cellphone cameras and instantaneous worldwide distribution of sensational – and often false – reporting.

Anyone who objects to these sensible reforms is both misguided about, and intolerant of, the Democratic principles that this country was built on.

The Internet? Cellphones? For that matter, the First Amendment was created well before radio, TV and magazines existed. Perhaps the First Amendment should only apply to newspapers.

Additionally, there should be limits on how many media outlets are permitted in one market, as well as how many people are allowed to blog, and how many comments anyone should be allowed to post. How many opinions do you really need?

As a 30-year journalist educated at a world-class university I certainly believe I am better qualified than some blogger somewhere to report about and comment upon the news. Allowing untrained professionals (who may or may not know much about English grammar, let alone the five Ws and one H) to report on the news, let alone to express opinions about the news, is potentially dangerous to the public. The public must be protected from the menace of untrained journalism.

Hopefully by now readers realize that what you’ve read up to here is as valid a proposal as Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. And proposals to curb gun violence by abridging our Second Amendment rights make as much sense as fixing some social ill by abridging our First Amendment rights.

 

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