Pelosi, House Dems: No Shield Law for Bloggers

by: Matt Stoller

Wed Oct 17, 2007 at 08:42


The House just passed the Free Flow of Information Act, a 'shield law' protecting journalists.  Here's the rub.

The bill provides journalists with a qualified privilege as to sources and information, while at the same time, recognizing the need for effective law enforcement and robust national security. A blogger who regularly engages in journalistic activities - such as gathering and publishing news and information for dissemination to the public - and does so for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain would be covered by the shield as a journalist.

I have no opinion as to whether shield laws are a good idea or not, but it's worth noting that this law doesn't cover amateurs, consultants like me, people like Steve Clemons, diarists on Kos, or anyone else who derive most of their income from other sources.  I don't understand why 'gathering and publishing news and information for dissemination to the public' isn't a good enough standard.

Here's the list of supporters: Associated Press, the National Association of Broadcasters, Bloomberg News, CBS, ClearChannel, CNN, Cox, Gannett, Hearst, NBC, News Corporation, The New York Times, TIME, and The Washington Post.

All of these groups make their money from advertising.  So of course, if you get a substantial amount of advertising you get special protections.  Otherwise, not so much.

Matt Stoller :: Pelosi, House Dems: No Shield Law for Bloggers

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David Ehrenstein (0.00 / 0)
David Ehrenstein, paging David Ehrenstein, you are wanted at Open Left.

definitions (0.00 / 0)
The Senate version is much better in this regard -- it defines journalism as "the regular 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."

That "regular" qualifier is, I think, a necessary one -- while it takes employment status out of the equation, it still separates Josh Marshall from, say, a person who sets up a Blogspot page solely for the purpose of leaking confidential information, and I can accept that distinction.


Gives A Whole New Meaning To "Don't Quite Your Day Job" (0.00 / 0)
Since I work for a newspaper.

It's questionable whether this law would have covered most journalists at the time the First Amendment was passed.  Publishers and editors were usually one and the same.  They were printers who derived most of their income from owning presses which they also used to publish their papers.  The typical "correspondent" was just that--someone who wrote letters, who corresponded with the paper's publisher.  Full-time journalistic employees were not the core of this model.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


Whistle blower protection (0.00 / 0)
What is needed is protection for people link Bunnantine Greenhouse and Russell Tice, not Judy Miller and Matt Cooper.

It's a little better than your description (0.00 / 0)
I checked the law:

  (2) COVERED PERSON- The term `covered person' means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person. Such term shall not include-- [terrorists, foreign powers, ...]

Emphasis is mine.  Someone like Kos, Atrios, or Josh Marshall is clearly covered, but it seems that any of them can designate any number of people as "affiliates", even if they write for no pay (for example, front page writers, interns, etc).

It would seem that the major bloggers could bring anyone out there who does good work under their umbrella in this way without paying them.


So business defines us (0.00 / 0)
Businesses and campaigns decide which ads to buy. So they define who qualifies as the whistleblowers to uncover their dirty laundry.

Absurd. Sounds like something the Pelosi Congress might invent.


Next time, I'd prefer a Hallmark card (0.00 / 0)
That company makes stationary commemorating every gotdamn thing under the sun, there simply must be a card out there with a 'Thanks for the campaign contributions, now shut up and go to hell,' sort of message on it.

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