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Michigan legislator proposes licensing journalists

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 3, 2010 - A Michigan legislator has come up with the idea of a state registration system for journalists, who would be asked to show that they are of "good moral character," have three years of experience, and received a journalism degree or the equivalent. The journalists also would be asked to submit writing samples.

State Sen. Bruce Patterson, a Republican who describes himself as a "constitutional lawyer," told FoxNews that some reporters don't know what they are talking about. He said that readers are being overwhelmed by the number of media outlets, from traditional to online to citizen-generated, and by the amount of misinformation they provide.

"We have to be able to get good information," he told Fox. "We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source."

Patterson's proposal, which has received little support, would be voluntary. Journalists who did not register still could cover stories.

Critics from the right and left said the proposal amounted to licensing journalists. Some suggested it might violate the First Amendment although the voluntary nature might save it from that fate.

Licensing journalists is common in much of the world and is often used as a means of government censorship.

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