This South Carolina Republican Wants to Create a “Registry” for Responsible Journalists

John Bazemore/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Perhaps inspired by Donald Trump’s recent call for a Muslim database, one South Carolina representative just introduced a measure to create a different kind of strange registry—this time to track journalists deemed “responsible” by the state.

The bill, proposed by Republican state lawmaker Mike Pitts, would establish vague requirements for journalists to submit to a registration process by the state. Journalists found in violation of the registry, by either not registering or breaking his rules, would be subjected to monetary fines and even criminal penalties—a lighter version of how the Kremlin treats its own pesky champions of free speech. As the Post and Courier reports, quoting Pitts, the Secretary of State’s Office would maintain a “responsible journalism registry” and create the criteria, with the help of a panel, on what qualifies a person to be a journalist—similar to the licensing for doctors and lawyers.

More from the very real “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law” proposal:

When asked if the proposal was retribution for some unflattering press coverage directed towards Pitts—the lawmaker has been repeatedly cited for some of his more eyebrow-raising spending habits—he told the Post and Courier it was actually aimed to combat stories he believes have been unfairly targeting gun ownership.

“It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms,” Pitts, a lifetime NRA member, said. “With this statement I’m talking primarily about printed press and TV. The TV stations, the six o’clock news and the printed press has no qualms demonizing gun owners and gun ownership.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest