There have been a number of cases in which it's been argued that bloggers and other independent writers don't deserve the same legal protection as "real" journalists, with a notable example being Apple's lawsuits to force some sites to reveal their sources
of some leaked product info. While Apple won the first round, an appeals court overturned the decision
, saying that state shield laws (which protect journalists from such suits) are "intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news," regardless of whether the person doing the gathering and dissemination is called a journalist or something else. A Congressional committee has now approved a federal shield law
that would protect anyone who gets "financial gain or livelihood" from their journalistic pursuits, regardless of affiliation. If the measure's approved and signed into law (which seems unlikely given the Bush administration's opposition to it), it would extend protection to bloggers, so long as they were trying to make money from their online efforts. Obviously that's a pretty wide standard, and one that most bloggers could easily live up to by getting some form of advertising, or at least attempting to get some, on their sites. Some legislators say it's far too broad, but a bigger question would seem to be why financial gain is the sole criteria. Certainly there are plenty of people who write blogs or create other online media in a professional or moneymaking capacity, but there are plenty of others who aren't in it for the money. Just because someone isn't looking to make money from their online work shouldn't automatically mean they don't deserve the protection of shield laws.