The Demand Real Journalism Campaign, calls for laws in this country to be changed. I outline the basics in this letter to POTUS. I am going to send a copy to President Biden, along with twenty or more other people in Capital Hill.
Below is a copy of that letter. Please fell free to copy it and send some yourself.
My DRJ campaign also includes creating videos for the web to raise awareness, and a petition.
Joe Biden, POTUS
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Re: Demand Real Journalism
May 11, 2022
Dear President Biden,
Thank you for reading this letter. (Or whatever staffer is reading)
My purpose in writing is to propose a plan that will help put the country back on the right track. I call it the Demand Real Journalism Act.
Fixing the news media is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I think most of us can agree it is crucial. Nearly one-half of the population today believes outright lies, due to several decades of a steady erosion of journalistic ethics. It has gotten so bad, that major news outlets (Fox and Tucker Carlson) are now emboldened enough to go to court and claim “no reasonable person” would take their “news” show seriously. If that is the case, why are they legally allowed to go on TV and do everything they can to make people believe it’s a legitimate newscast?
I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that so many people in America believing these lies is a deadly serious situation and a problem of immense proportions.
As a TV journalist for about twenty years, I have given this a great deal of thought. I believe I have a plan that would work and be acceptable to our diverse and divided population. I outline the basics below.
The Demand Real Journalism Act would be multi-faceted and attack the problem from several fronts.
First, let’s legally define JOURNALISM and JOURNALIST. Let the definitions be written by academics and professionals in media and law, but written, so your average person can understand. This definition should reiterate what we all should know: Journalism is a fair and honest effort to report the truth, unencumbered by bias or financial interests.
The law should also include updated legal definitions for related terms like: libel, lie, propaganda, advertising, newscast, commentator, opinion, and probably half a dozen other terms I’m not thinking of at the moment.
Next, let’s regulate and license the journalism and news industry. If somebody wants to present themselves as a REAL newscaster or journalist, they have to obtain a license. Similar to a lawyer passing the bar exam, a potential journalist would have to prove competence and pledge integrity. If they are not willing to be a licensed journalist, then they can still speak in public, but have to call themselves some kind of opinionated commentator, but they can not pretend to be a journalist doing journalism.
Doing it this way, there is no censorship. Demand Real Journalism does not make anyone shut up, it just makes them label it correctly as real news, advertising, or baloney.
The DRJ law also needs to include a journalist’s code of ethics. If it can be proven a licensed journalist did not follow that code of ethics, they could be stripped of their license. We do this with medical professionals, and we should do it with journalists too. The bad ones are truly killing our nation!
Journalists and journalism have lost their credibility. That needs to change. Over time, legally and transparently differentiating journalists from commentators and advertisers will help the truth stand out.
Although the criticism will surly arise, this plan is also clearly NOT the government creating a “ministry of truth.” Demand Real Journalism will help raise the credibility of journalism by passing guidelines, restrictions, and accountability procedures. Journalists themselves will be tasked with digging to find the actual truth. The good ones love doing that. The current structure of the news industry actually inhibits digging out the actual truth. So, let’s do what we can to alter that structure.
Create a journalism licensing board. We license professions like doctors, lawyers, contracting, and plumbing. Journalism is an integral part of a functioning democracy, so why shouldn’t it be regulated?
Needless to say, this board would have to be non-political. It should be made up of a cross-section of academics and respected professionals. This board needs to be as transparent as possible and as credible as possible. They would have long term jurisdictional powers and will watch over the news media to make sure they are following real journalism guidelines. In other words, the board holds the industry accountable and informs the public concerning ongoing issues.
Additionally, there needs to be a licensing level for organizations that claim to be doing journalism. The organizations can use it as a badge of credibility, and either embrace the act or discard it, but they must be public about their stance. Do not require adherence, make it voluntary. In other words, the organizations themselves are identifying whether they actually agree with the journalism definitions and legal restrictions. Over time, people who are now confused will come to have confidence in REAL JOURNALISM. This won’t happen overnight.
Many people argue that the Fairness Doctrine should be brought back. While I wish it had never been repealed by Ronald Reagan, bringing The Fairness Doctrine back today is impractical due to the immense changes in the news media between now and the 80s. So many outlets would immediately be exempt and could continue on as they are now. The DRJ Act should include something like the Fairness Doctrine, but that alone is not enough.
In addition to this new framework, I would like to suggest that journalism receive greater emphasis in the public school curriculum, so more citizens can experience and learn what real journalism actually is. This would make them better consumers of media. An adult-level educational campaign on journalism should be implemented as well.
I sincerely hope you will consider my proposal. I am not saying I have all the answers, but I think this is a fair start. I am quite certain if we put our heads together, we can come up with a powerful law that will do what we need, which is to stop the proliferation of dangerous lies under the pretext of free speech.
Please consider signing the Demand Real Journalism petition.
Lorraine Grula, News Nerd and Journalism Advocate
Here are 15 articles on the blog for Demand Real Journalism, plus one about me, in case that is a concern.