Do we need a journalism merit badge?


So Ivan Lewis has suggested that journalists who ‘break the rules’ should be struck off. A move which, as FleetStreetBlues blogs: implication, that there should be some kind of register or licence for all journalists

A license might be a bit strong. What else could we consider…

Journalism Merit badge

What about a boy scout style merit badge system? They have one for Journalism. They also have them for law. I couldn’t find one for PA or shorthand.

Or maybe we could go the McDonalds star route. You could lose a star for each ‘transgression’ of regulations. Gain one for an exclusive.

But seriously, do we really need to be thinking about this at all?

Fleet street fox rounds off a good response to Ivan Lewis with this:

No-one’s needed a licence to be a journalist in the 300 years since the first paper was printed in Fleet Street. You just have to be nosy and a little bit mad, the kind of person no-one else wants in their club.

A good headline? A storm in a teacup? All of that and more.

License or badge?

O'Reilly's code of conduct badge

In 2007, Tim O’reilly suggested that we needed a blogging code of conduct. A suggestion that was roundly turned on in some quarters . His reasoning was there needed to be some way of controlling the increasing amount of poor behaviour on blogs.  Blogs that followed the code and enforced it got to be deputised in to the code and wear a badge – yep, a sheriffs badge.

In the same way that we can argue that Lewis’ suggestions amount to an attempt to license, you could also argue that would legitimise professional journalists. beyond the NUJ card. This would be legally sanctioned journalists.  Yes, state sanctioned but it would give them rights and access above all others.  Especially the simply nosey or mad or worse still, those “Local nosey parkers with mobile phones

Given the attitude of the industry to regulation, the public and citizen journalism, be forgiven for thinking that many journalists  already consider themselves to be licensed already. I would imagine there are some who would welcome the differentiation.



4 Replies to “Do we need a journalism merit badge?”

  1. It is difficult to understand just how this would work in the internet age.
    I hope that Ivan Lewis’ speech was a sop to the party faithful over Murdoch rather than any upping of the game on journalism.

    I totally agree with Alex Massie who writes on the practicalities

    “too many trades are licensed as it is. There comes a point at which occupational licensing ceases to offer guarantees to consumers and becomes instead a cute for of restraining trade, protecting those already inside at the expense of those who would like to make a living and, not at all coincidentally, saying to hell with the consumer’s interests. It rewards and cossets privilege”

    The step of regulating journalists with the power to take accreditation away is one small step towards totalitarianism.Hopefully this will not make it into Mr Miliband’s review of policy.

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