A state register for journalists?

Following the recent scandal and national outcry about the misconduct and unethical workings of journalists within the media, many have been left wondering what repercussions the guilty and shamed parties should have to face.

Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis announced in a press conference yesterday that he thought journalists guilty of ‘gross malpractice’ should be ‘struck off’. In this bold and frankly dull statement he implies government control over all practicing journalists in the UK. As a fledgling journo, I can’t say I’m worried about the impact of this statement. Predictably it has been met with dozens of tweets and comments of disbelief and bemusement.

“Labour Party in UK wants to license journalists – and presumably have a unicorn on every news desk too.” One perplexed tweeter scoffs.

This statement sardonically highlights the impracticalities of the labour mp’s suggestion and although I can see where some sort of mediation is attractive, the vast numbers of professional and amateur journalists with legitimate voices and audiences not only in this country, but worldwide deem his idea a dud. Maybe a hundred years ago a register for the few hundred professional press journalists there were, would have been a sound idea. However in the modern era, not only do we have thousands more print publications in circulation but we have an array of other mediums, from television and radio to a vast network of online opportunities for journalists to publish from. The increased popularity of blogging, Twitter and Youtube, to name a few, has given so many people a voice and blurred the boundary between free speech and journalism, making it impossible to punish, regulate or control.

However, with the recent phone hacking scandal and wrongly reported stories (e.g. the Chris Jefferies case), a call for all publications to demonstrate better ethical judgement and respectful but informative reporting should be emphasised throughout. A register may prevent some of these mindless, damaging and illegal articles from being attempted or published, but ultimately this has to be resolved within the industry. The responsibility weighs on the shoulders of the big powers, the Murdoch’s and Viscount Rothermere’s to convey a message across their mass media empires.

Social networking sites like Twitter give us, the public, an opportunity to apply pressure on these people in numbers and make a change, which is great.

After an online bombardment of these sorts, Ivan lewis has retracted his statement, outlining what his misconstrued statement was actually meant to convey – “I said industry should consider whether gross malpractice should lead  to a journalist being struck off and I oppose state oversight of press.”

Poor guy, I actually feel sorry for him now. A (almost) fleeting statement has landed him mocked and laughed at by the online community, like a sad brown snail in the corner of a large glass tank in a zoo after a sugar fuelled primary school visit.

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