Do You Need a License to Be a Journalist?

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Licensure for journalists is a thorny issue, at least for journalists. Media ethics watchdogs cry censorship, while prominent bloggers wonder where licensing would leave them. There are licensure laws in some countries, but in the United States, freedom of the press reigns. That doesn’t mean, however, that any random blogger gets the same access as a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Definitions

There is no set definition of what it means to be a journalist, and this is even more true in a modern era dominated by online reporting, citizen journalism and blogging. Additionally, experts in a given field often report on issues related to that field for a newspaper in weekly columns, even if they don’t have a journalism degree.

Attempts

There have been and will continue to be attempts to create some sort of licensing body for journalism, but most of those are at the state level. For example, Michigan state senator Bruce Patterson introduced a bill in 2010 that, if passed, would require journalists in the state to register with a governing body. The requirements for licensure included a good moral character, three years of journalism experience, a journalism or equivalent degree and writing samples. The bill failed to make it out of committee.

Teachers

Teachers of journalism do face a standard set of requirements in order to teach the craft. Most states and colleges require that a journalism or journalism equivalent degree is coupled with a teaching certificate to teach at the high school level. Post-graduate degrees and a publication history may be required of teachers at the college and university level. Specific guidelines vary by state and institution.

Background Checks

Some journalists are required to jump through additional hoops before assuming the responsibilities of specialized beats. Members of the White House press corps, for example, must undergo rigorous background checks before gaining access to the White House grounds and press room. Some city police departments require background checks as well before issuing or renewing press credentials.

References

Photo Credits

  • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images