Any protections from a proposed “shield law” might depend on the salary of journalist involved, if Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has her way.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, Feinstein proposed an amendment to the bill that would make the law only apply to journalists she described as “real reporters.”
The amendment defines “real reporters” as “a salaried agent” of a media company such as a newspaper, broadcast news station, news website or another type of news service.
According to the Associated Press, Feinstein said she was concerned that “the current version of the bill would grant a special privilege to “people who aren’t really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications.”
...Someone needs to tell Senator Feinstein that "professional" journalists aren't licensed and that a journalism degree is not even required to be a reporter. In fact, even a college degree isn't required to though most have graduated from college. So it's unclear what Sen. Feinstein means by "professional qualifications" to be a reporter.
|Gov. Mike Pence |
Media shield laws are in transition. Indiana's shield law which was passed in 1998 only protects professional journalists. While there is no federal statutory shield law (which Gov. Pence repeatedly sponsored when a member of the U.S. House), courts have interpreted the First Amendment to include shield protections. Recent federal and state courts decisions are divided on whether First Amendment shield protection to bloggers and "citizen journalists," though the majority of cases appear to extend the First Amendment right to protect sources to bloggers and citizen journalists who write on a regular basis. It does not appear, however, that the Seventh Circuit or Indiana courts have ruled on the issue.
As a member of Congress, Indiana Governor Mike Pence consistently sponsored the federal shield law and twice successfully pushed it through the U.S. House only to have it die in the Senate. When news broke that the Justice Department was investigating news outlets, the Governor again asked Congress to pass the federal shield law. After some early missteps with the new media spawned by the Internet (see flap over the Governor's Facebook page), Governor Pence could score points with the public if he advocates that Indiana's fifteen year old shield law be updated to include bloggers and citizen's journalists who are often leading the traditional media when it comes to exposing corruption and government misdeeds.
Returning to Sen. Feinstein, one can only hope her amendment is based on a failure to understand the new media made possible by the Internet. However, given that her reaction to the Snowden matter seemed more about anger of having it exposed what government officials were doing rather than a desire to protect national security, one has to wonder if her amendment is aimed at stopping those pesky non-traditional journalists who are outing public corruption on a daily basis.