Monday, October 24, 2005
WHAT'S A JOURNALIST? Sponsor says bill may include blogger
Here's an update on the question of defining a journalist for a federal
shield law. Here's the text of the legislation. The language appears very ambiguous and broad:
Bill's Author Says Some Bloggers Would be Protected by Shield Law
By Mark Fitzgerald
Editor & Publisher Online via Yahoo
Bloggers who actually gather news would be protected under the proposed
federal shield law, the legislation's first author, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence
(news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., told the Inland Press Association
Pence's view of who would qualify as a journalist under the Free Flow of
Information Act differed from the assessment of the bill's co-sponsor in
the Senate, Indiana Richard Lugar.
Exactly two weeks before speaking at the Inter American Press Association,
Lugar said bloggers would "probably not" be considered journalists
eligible for the act's protections.
Pence said bloggers would likely have to be considered on a "blog-by-blog"
"Frankly, there are some that are out there gathering news," Spence said
at Inland's 120th annual meeting. "There are many people though, who just
link to your newspapers. It would be hard to argue to anyone that
privilege applies to those people just because they have a Web site."
Pence asked the Inland publishers to rally their readers around the Free
Flow of Information Act. "I believe we have an historic opportunity to
close this hole in the First Amendment."
Pence said there was intense interest in the bill on the Senate Judiciary
Committee, which he noted has held two hearings on the issue at a time
when "there have been not one but two Supreme Court vacancies."
Though Pence was the first author of the bill, its bi-partisan backers
have decided to try to get it passed in the Senate first. (See related
story, Shield Law Supporters Optimistic on Bill's Passage in 2006.)
Pence, who is chairman of the House Conservative Coalition, said he was
moved to write the bill by "the specter of an American journalist spending
85 days in jail," a reference to embattled New York Times reporter Judith
Miller, and by his admiration for the Brown publishing family in his
hometown of Columbus, Ind. ( Jeff Brown, president of the Inland Press
Association as well as his family's Home News Enterprises, was the best
man at Pence's wedding and introduced the representative before his
"As a conservative, I believe the only real check on government is a free
press," Pence said. "And as someone who believes in limited government, I
believe nothing is more conservative than promoting and protecting the
principle of a free press."
Pence said he frankly believes much of the news media is liberal, and he
joked that he reads The New York Times every Sunday morning and then goes
to church to "so I know what both sides are up to."
"This isn't about protecting reporters," he said of the proposed shield
law. "This is about protecting the peoples right to know."
-- Mark Fitzgerald (firstname.lastname@example.org) is E&P's