In response to a Government of Quebec report that suggested some journalists be given a professional title, The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) released a statement arguing that the proposal would infringe upon the freedom of the press.
The proposed legislation is designed to help the public distinguish between amateurs and those “serving the public interest” and to fight the impacts of decreased sales, advertising and other economic constraints. But the report has alarmed many in the field concerned about the classification of only some journalists as professional, the logistics of certification and the impact of government intervention on the integrity of the press.
The CAJ wrote in its statement that the proposed legislation would impact the right of the press to work free and unimpeded by government. “Government, no matter how noble its intensions, cannot help journalism under this proposal without subverting it,” writes Hugo Rodrigues, CAJ president. The association maintains that the public can and does distinguish good, “professional” journalists from the bad and that dividing and classifying would be a mistake.
Klaus Pohle, a professor of journalism at Carleton University, wrote in The Gazette that journalism is not a true profession and open access to the occupation is the way it ought to be. Calling the proposal “a licensing scheme by stealth,” Pohle says, “These ideas, if put into practice, would transform journalism from a classless endeavour into a hierarchal system that privileges some over others.”
The report raises more questions than it answers, especially for those of us who are new to journalism, who have no formal training or who have titles that may not equate with “professional journalist.” Who is a professional journalist? Is a blogger as much of a journalist as a copy editor, as a radio producer, as a city hall reporter, as a television anchor? Should journalists be treated differently and awarded greater rights than citizens?
And, most of all, do we really want our government answering these questions?