Thursday, September 20, 2007

Shield Laws

The New York Times backs a federal shield law.

The first question, of course, is today's most pressing one for journalists: who would qualify for such protection? Do you count amateur bloggers? Professional writers who mostly write online? Do you have to be in print to qualify?

Is an economist turned press critic such as Atrios a journalist? He certainly writes cogent press criticism, from a liberal perspective. Similarly, Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and Bush administation critic, writes about legal issues for Salon but also ends up beating up the press. What about the amateur writing about dirty politics, sitting in front of computer at night, in his spare time?

In the past, some newsroom people have opposed a shield law, arguing that the First Amendment is enough and that shield laws end up not addressing every circumstance, leaving people who have relied on them exposed to prosecution. I don't know what it says about the current state of government and media relations--many bloggers think there's already too much synergy there--but I do know a shield law raises a lot of questions.

Other comments:
The Janesville (Wisc.) Gazette

The Wisconsin State Journal

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

the Society for Professional Journalists

the American Bar Association

and the
First Amendment Center

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