Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Journalists’ Shield Passes

But are we journalists?

The Free Flow of Information act passed the House late this afternoon by a vote of 398 to 21. As I read the text of HR 2102 some (but possibly not all) bloggers would be covered. The bill defines ‘journalism’ this way”

“The term ‘‘journalism’’ means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.”

Mathew Pollack, writing on The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press web site, reports:

“The bill only protects professional journalists who regularly engage in journalism 'for substantial financial gain' or a substantial part of their livelihood. Under this definition, some, but not all, bloggers will receive protection from federal investigators. Any terrorist organizations or media wings of foreign powers cannot claim protection under the shield.”

My problem, which some Lefty Blogger may solve, is that in the text of the bill on line I don’t find the ‘substantial financial gain’ limitation. Apart from that the notion of substantial gain seems fairly ambiguous.


cpmaz said...

Just so you know, the 'substantial financial gain' language is in the 'covered persons' part of the bill, not the definition of journalism that it contains.

This bill hoses bloggers, student journalists, and anyone who is not making money off of their journalistic activities.

Of course, even for paid journalists, the shield is weak at best - the government can pierce the shield almost at will.

Anonymous said...

I was totally against the bill, because it allows the "legitimate" press to say anything it chooses and attribute it to "unnamed sources".

I'm just an average citizen, and it's bad news for people like me.

We're just mushrooms - keep us in the dark and feed us you-know-what.

I have no clue why ANYONE would support that, least of a blogger.

Art Jacobson said...

Dear Anon,
Although I'm skeptical myself about the main stream media I have rather more faith in it than you. But setting that aside I'm amused by your attitude toward anonymity..a privilege you take advantage of.

The ability to use un-named sources is crucial to investigative journalism, especially when those investigations are aimed at uncovering government malfeasance.

Without some level of shielding I suspect that whistle blowers would be even fewer than they are now.