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An unequal playing field

September 26, 2013

 

MERRITT

MERRITT

CHAD MERRITT
Associate Editor

 

I hate the media.

 

Journalists are in a unique group. You need no qualifications, special skills, nor are you required to pass a test to become one. Basically, anybody can be a journalist.

 

Someone who writes for the New York Times is a journalist just as much as someone who updates his or her blog on a daily basis. Twitter can be a form of journalism in its own right.

 

So when anybody can become a journalist, it leaves a lot to be desired from the media. What is more shocking to me though is when the “professionals” butcher the news, as they have in recent memory.

 

The Zimmerman-Martin incident, Benghazi attack, IRS and NSA scandals and the Snowden/ Wikileaks situation are some high-profile incidents the media failed to competently report.

 

On Sept. 16, journalism professor David Guth from the University of Kansas tweeted that “the blood is on the hands of the NRA” and “next time, let it be your sons and daughters” in response to the Navy Yard shooting.

 

I have been appalled over the past year at the mishandling of almost every major story by almost every major news outlet.

 

With all the tomfoolery happening in the media today, one would assume the government would step in and do something about it. And they are.

 

A senate panel has recently backed legislation on a new shield law which is designed to help protect journalists and their sources. The sticky part of this new law is that the government will define what a journalist is.

 

The new criteria for a journalist, per this new bill, is someone who has worked one year out of the last 20 years, three months out of the past five years, or someone who has a “substantial track record” of freelancing over the past five years. The bill also has examples of what it considers to be a “news outlet” for which someone can have worked to fit the criteria for being a journalist.

 

This new bill will, not surprisingly, exclude groups such as Wikileaks from protection meaning they would have to reveal their sources if asked.

 

A congress that was recently burned by the documents posted by Edward Snowden is trying to prevent an incident from happening in the future. In the process, they are essentially shutting down citizen journalism.

 

The media is a system of checks and balances. Having the government decide who is and is not a journalist is vague enough as it is. Having whomever the government decides is a journalist report on the very same government sounds even worse.

 

Chad Merritt is a senior journalism major from Livingston who serves as associate editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to cam059@latech.edu.

 

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