There’s nothing that can’t be done if we raise our voice as one.
First, it’s necessary to define a new term. Medialoid (mainstream media infected by tabloid journalism) publishes content that is more suitable for tabloid publications.
Michael Jackson’s Law
Part 1 — Professionalization of Journalism. Many occupations require licensing; for example, doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants must be licensed in all 50 states. To qualify, one must graduate from an accredited university and pass a rigorous board examination. A license doesn’t guarantee a doctor, lawyer, architect, or accountant will be competent. However, licensing prevents a plumber from operating on a person, a homemaker from arguing in court, a dog groomer from designing a building, or a student from maintaining the books of a corporation.
Is it no less important that those entrusted with reporting world events be licensed? Reporters should not be allowed to call themselves journalists unless they graduate from an accredited university with a degree in journalism (including at least one course in journalism ethics and one course in communications and media law) and pass a rigorous board examination.
Media play a huge role in our lives. Television, radio, the Internet, movies, books, and newspapers inform and influence our ideas, opinions, values, and beliefs. They shape our understanding of the world and give us the information we need to hold our leaders accountable. They help us separate fact from opinion.
If formal journalism training and licensing had been required of Diane Dimond and Nancy Grace, neither would have been hired by any news organization. If either had been hired without credentials, the news company that hired them may have been fined for hiring unlicensed persons. Clearly, if Dimond and Grace had not been perceived as journalists, their works of fiction may not have confused the public.
The Society of Professional Journalists believes that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of a journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and balanced account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. A journalist shall lose his or her license for failing to adhere to principles of journalistic ethics and integrity.
Code of Ethics for Journalists
Part 2 — Defaming the dead shall be prohibited. A deceased person’s heirs can sue for libel and slander as aggressively as the person who was defamed when he or she was alive.
Part 3 — News agencies, journalists, and all media shall use public disclaimers to alert and educate readers and viewers regarding content. For example, the Food and Drug Administration protects against harmful claims that are misleading to the public. The following disclaimer must be included on products that purport to be effective but do not have FDA approval:
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition.
Following is a proposed disclaimer that shall accompany all medialoid content:
The views expressed herein may not have been fact-checked or verified according to principles of journalistic ethics and integrity. In addition, rumor, barely credible sources, an appeal to emotion and the use of checkbook journalism may be a part of this story or program. This story or program is for entertainment purposes only and was not reviewed by a licensed journalist.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) protects against deceptive advertising that is misleading to the public. In like manner, a governing body shall be formed to uphold standards of ethics and integrity in journalism, oversee licensing for journalists, and protect against media practices that are harmful or mislead the public.
It will take a long time and much effort to pass this proposed legislation. We need your support. Please join us by subscribing to our newsletter.
Tort Law and Journalistic Ethics: Too Late For Michael Jackson—by Richard T. Karcher
Professionalization: Fusion of Media Freedom and Responsibility—Why Michael Jackson’s Law Must be Passed—by John C. Merrill