A South Carolina state representative wants to start registering journalists he thinks are “responsible” and penalizing those who he thinks aren’t.
South Carolina state Representative Mike Pitts (R) has introduced the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law which would define what a journalist is, keep a list of those who are seen as “responsible” and penalize those not on the list with fines or even imprisonment.
“It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms,” Pitts said in the Post and Courier. “With this statement I’m talking primarily about printed press and TV. The TV stations, the six o’clock news and the printed press has no qualms demonizing gun owners and gun ownership.”
Under the bill, the Secretary of State’s Office would be tasked with keeping a “responsible journalism registry” and creating the criteria with the help of a panel on what qualifies a person as a journalist — similar to doctors and lawyers, Pitts said.
Pitts said the criminal penalties mentioned in his bill for violations would be “minor fines” similar to those concealed weapons permit holders face.
A journalist—defined as a person who in his professional capacity collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information for a media outlet, including an employee or an independent contractor—that is not registered would be fined $25 to $500, would be cited with a misdemeanor and could be imprisoned up to 30 days, based on the level of offense.
The lawmaker questioned whether working journalists actually follow the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which outlines principles for professional journalists to follow to ensure fair and accurate reporting.
“Do journalists, by definition, really adhere to a code of ethics?” Pitts said. “The problem that I have with the printed press is, like I said, it appears especially in the last decade to me each story has become more editorial than reporting. It might just be my perception.”