Mike Pitts back in the news again. Surprise, surprise

I gave it 24-hours of thought. I slept on it. After careful, thoughtful and prayerful consideration, I have concluded Rep. Mike Pitts has lost his freaking mind.
He wants the State of South Carolina to register journalists. Just TV and newspaper reporters, he told The State paper. If you think that sounds like a reasonable idea (Why shouldn’t they have to register? What makes them special?), you should break out your pocket-sized copy of the United States Constitution.
You will find that the First Amendment prohibits the making of any law infringing on the freedom of the press.
Pitts’ proposed law is called the “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law.” I suppose irresponsible journalists won’t have to sign up.
I got a call from Bill Rogers, the executive director of the SC Press Association, when Pitts filed his bill last Tuesday. I thought Rogers was kidding. He wasn’t. It’s for real.
If the bill were to become law – it has a snowball’s chance in hell – journalists would have to pay a registration fee (the amount of the fee hasn’t been determined) and swear they love Jesus.
Before being certified by the Secretary of State, we would have to submit to a criminal background check (we can be blackballed if we have ever been convicted of libel, slander or invasion of privacy). We can be denied our registration (maybe they will tattoo the letter J on our foreheads) if we’ve demonstrated a “reckless disregard of the basic codes and canons of professional journalism associations, including a disregard of truth, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability…”
Whoever wrote that sentence apparently has never been in an English class, because as written, it says the canons of journalism include “a disregard of truth, accuracy,” etc.
Rep. Pitts wants us to re-register every two years – coincidentally, the length of a term in the S.C. House.
A media outlet will have to provide the Secretary of State with an affidavit attesting to the applicant’s journalistic competence. This must be provided before the person can be hired. I’m not sure how I’m going to attest to someone competence before they are hired and how they can be hired if I don’t so attest.
It’s your basic Catch 22.
If I were to have the tenacity to practice unlicensed journalism, I’ll be fined $25 for the first offense. Personally, I’m insulted at such a low fine. The second offense will cost me $100 and I might have to spend 15 days as a guest in the Johnson Detention Center. The third time I’m busted as a rogue purveyor of news, I’m going to pay $500 and spend 30 days in the hoosegow.
Most of you can relax, you won’t have to be registered to post on Facebook. Whew. Am I right?
Faithful readers will remember I lambasted Rep. Pitts in several columns following his impassioned – and idiotic – defense of the Confederate flag flying on the Statehouse grounds.
Therefore, I’m convinced the proposed registration of journalists is aimed solely at me. He’s going to get back at me because he knows I can’t pass all the qualifications to be a professional, registered journalist in our beautiful state.
OK, I’m joking. I think he’s mad at the daily newspaper people – particularly the Post & Courier in Charleston, which told us about him using campaign money to buy gas on a hunting trip out West. And the national broadcast folks who made him look like a tool during the flag debate.
But regardless – or is it irregardless? If I was registered, I’d know which is correct, I guess – I have a proposal for Rep. Pitts. (My buddy Vic MacDonald came up with this idea. He’s been practicing unsafe journalism for 30 years.)
Here’s what I propose, Sparky. You introduce a bill to register assault weapons in South Carolina, get it passed and signed into law and I’ll walk to Columbia and register as a journalist.
Then, one of us would be a card-carrying professional.

(Larry Franklin is publisher of The Chronicle. His email address is lfranklin@clintonchronicle.net. Read his blog and other articles including a link to the full bill at www.MyClintonNews.com.)

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