SC lawmaker defends journalist registry bill
February 25, 2016
By Cynthia Roldan
Statehouse Reporter | The Post and Courier, Columbia, SC
COLUMBIA—The Upstate lawmaker who introduced a bill calling for a registry of journalists said he was aiming to “educate the populace” of slanted and biased reports in the media.
Laurens Republican Rep. Mike Pitts held a press conference Jan 26, a week after his introduction of the “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law” went viral.
The bill used the framework of the state’s concealed weapons permit requirement and a journalist code of ethics to create requirements for people wanting to work for a media outlet.
Pitts said he filed the measure in response to no particular article or report. He just felt that too many stories get watered down to sound bites or to bullet points, leaving out the facts and background that explain the rationale behind lawmaker actions.
Pitts, an ardent Second Amendment supporter, argued that the press as a whole had not responded with what he felt was the right amount of indignation to President Barack Obama’s executive orders aimed at restricting gun access. He countered that when the threat to the First Amendment was imminent, the response was swift.
“The press readily defended, (and) brought your swords out when you thought there was going to be a challenge to the First Amendment,” Pitts said. “The one that you will defend without bias is when it focused on you.”
Various media representatives and legal scholars have condemned the offering as both an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of the press and an unwarranted attempt to push Pitts’ personal beliefs in the legislative process. (See the editorial by Jay Bender on Page 4.)
He added that he did not consider educating the public as a waste of time, and that if he wanted to, he’d ask for the bill to be debated in committee. But with so many priority bills in the queue and a crowded Senate calendar, Pitts acknowledged he didn’t think his bill had a chance of passing this year. © The Post and Courier 2016
Cynthia Roldan covers the Statehouse from Columbia for The Post and Courier. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.