‘Covered Journalists': Federal shield law language a good compromise

How in the world do you define a journalist?

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee attempted to do it in 837 words. It’s an ambitious task, and I’m not really comfortable defining “covered journalist,” but in the big scheme of things the definition could be a lot worse.

Today the federal shield law bill (Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, S. 987) passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, 13-5, and it included amended language defining who is entitled to reporter’s privilege. The definition is really broad, as it should be. It includes college journalists, freelancers, bloggers (particularly those with traditional legacy media experience in the past 20 years), anyone working for a “news website” and just about anyone else gathering information and disseminating it for the public good. It specifically excludes terrorists and there is language that would exclude groups like Wikileaks.

And it has a safety valve: If there is disagreement a judge can decide.

This is a lot better than what was previously proposed, which made it sound like a journalist is someone with a “press” hat, notepad and pen, works for a newspaper and yells across rooms, “Hildy, get me that copy, now!” Journalism is a little more nuanced today.

But the gist is still the same: To collect and disseminate information so the people can self-govern. This shield law would help protect that mission. I personally thank Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer for working out a compromise.

Stay tuned at the SPJ Shield Law page as we follow the details, figure out who will support it and who will oppose it, and let you know how you can have your say!

 

 

 

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit


Newest Posts

Ohio passes bill clouding execution process December 18, 2014, 7:23 pm
Cuba opens its door to U.S. journalists, but be careful December 17, 2014, 7:35 pm
Congratulations to Julie Asher, December Volunteer of the Month December 17, 2014, 2:51 pm
Adding Study Abroad to a Journalism Curriculum December 14, 2014, 6:43 pm
NorCal SPJ chapter fights for sunshine in San Francisco December 12, 2014, 2:21 am
Stop ignoring Instagram December 11, 2014, 10:38 pm
Help us improve and protect journalism abroad December 10, 2014, 5:40 pm

Copyright © 2007-2014 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ