Licensing Journalists: Public Protection or Guild Protection?

After its crushing defeat in the last election, Britain’s Labour Party is heaping on bad ideas. The latest? To license journalists via a professional body that could ban or “strike off” those who are accused of malpractice from practicing journalism in the future. A horrific notion. Helen Lewis-Hasteley of the New Statesman notes, “If we look at the countries around the world where the government keeps such a register, I bet they’re not the ones you’d regard as shining beacons of democracy and enlightenment. Who would administer the register?”

I agree with Cory Doctorow, who writes, “Given that “journalism” presently encompasses “publishing accounts of things you’ve seen using the Internet” and “taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them” and “blogging” and “commenting on news stories,” this proposal is even more insane than the traditional “journalist licenses” practiced in totalitarian nations.”

Now, a reflex reaction to tighten media regulation in response to the Rupert Murdoch scandals is obvious. But the relevant issue is to (1) prosecute crimes and civil damages according to existing statutes and (2) make damn sure these nefarious actions reflect on Mudoch & Co’s public image. This might mean tweaking #1 to ensure no gag orders or confidentiality can prevent #2.

In other words, no victims settling for damages from Rupert, on condition of silence. There is a compelling public interest that all such cases be transparent, so their outcomes can affect the public’s trust in clear violators of that trust. Some minor law tweaks, there. But urgent.

But licensing journalists is just blatant “guild-tending”… the left wing equivalent of right-wing oligarchy. A travesty and anti-transparency. And what of bloggers…are they next?

==Society & Issues==

Studies appraise why IQ varies around the globe. Controlling for the effects of education, national wealth, temperature, and distance from sub-Saharan Africa, infectious disease emerged as the best predictor. children infected with intestinal worms have lower IQ later in life. Another study found that regions in Mexico that were the target of eradication programs had higher average IQ than those that were not.

See a fascinating article (follow the links)  about several world cities that defied expectations and remade themselves in wonderfully positive ways.

Following up on my extensive posting-essay about “seasteading” – Jason Sussberg made a short film about the Seasteading Institute.  It reveals the characters driving the effort… and shows their mix of both solid and extremely airy thinking. (Alas, without interviewing a single skeptic or question-asker.) There is a strong part of me that sympathizes and roots for them!  And another, mature portion that knows what the world is about and where it’s headed. (Still, you’ll see Seasteading portrayed vividly in EXISTENCE!)

Airport security may soon have a new way to check your ID: watching the way you walk. It seems footsteps are as unique as fingerprints, and can identify people with 99.8 per cent accuracy. “It probably is possible to use this in a real-world security application,” says one researcher. Lesson? Hiding is futile. Our only path is sousveillance. Looking back.

After the Great San Diego Blackout, a few thoughts on potential future power failures: Everybody needs a fully corded and non-powered phone! The more old-fashioned the better. If it has a power cord, it won’t do. One that plugs into just the wall jack. For more: read what I told the Defense Dept about readiness in a robust society! This from an Glenn Reynolds: “when we lost power yesterday along with the rest of San Diego County. The electric eye-activated toilets and urinals in the new buildings were all nonfunctional, whereas the older models (with actual handles) in place in the older buildings worked fine. Exclusively installing toilets or sinks that don’t function without electricity in new buildings just seems like a bad idea.”


Finally got around to watching Limitless… one of the nifty crop of lower budget but highly intelligent science fiction films (e.g. Source Code) that managed to get produced in 2010, when the big studios were mostly churning out one remake and sequeal after another. I thought it was terrific! Snappy, crisply written, nicely textured and well-foreshadowed.  And just a bit optimistic… I liked that.  Oh, and note the hero is a sci fi author.  Been several of those lately. Maybe civilization is wising up!  (Oh, the screenwriter, Leslie Dixon, is a friend.  Proud of her.)

Do see an animated rendition of Tim Minchin’s terrific Beat poem “Storm” about reality itself… and fighting back for enlightenment. Oh… see Minchin’s other performances too.

Awesome anonymous paper sculptings!

Hmmm…Space Colony Earth claims to be planning the first interstellar mission form Earth, to travel beyond our solar system and contact alien civilizations. Their ship, Starship Ark intends to depart in 2017, to seek out strange new civilizations….. Nice clean dopey-dreamy fun. Or is this a promo for a game?

More on that Climate Denialist stuff soon. Meanwhile, remember, when some fool starts making crazy attacks on science, find the most SPECIFIC of his statements and then… demand that he put money on it!  Seriously.  Bets. Wagers. Like that doctor who offered $10,000 if Bachmann could find ONE child made retarded by the gardasil vaccine. One.

It needn’t be so grand. Any amount will do.  Watch them backpedal and slide toward the door.



Filed under media, science

8 responses to “Licensing Journalists: Public Protection or Guild Protection?

  1. Matthew Squair

    Here in Australia with a toothless self governing media industry (somewhat ironically) our only media governance is provided by the state televisions Media Watch. Regulation no, just a bracing dose of pitiless and humorous criticism.

  2. Philip

    Thank you ….

  3. British Labor Party =\= British left
    British Labor Party = bootlicking support for Bush, particularly for invasions and occupations.

  4. Sir;
    I agree that the existing statutes should be enough to address the illegality of press behaviour recently experienced in England. What is likely to be harder to overcome is the misguided view that illegality when applied to some, is not illegality at all; but, when applied to others, it is. Hack a celebrity’s phone and its okay – hack a dead girl’s and it’s not. No – both are invasions – yes one is more obscenely criminal than the other – but both remain illegal and should be prosecuted appropriately.

    Kind regards,

  5. Perfect blog with interesting ideas!

  6. KEM

    We have a form of media licensing in the US now–it is called media credentialing. The press pass has been used effectively by the White House, DoD, NASA and others to grant access only to those who remain in the good graces of the enormous Public Affairs bureaucracies. Some who have been targeted chose to report from a less premium venue than that afforded by the Press Pass but most cave in to keep their jobs and network access.

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