Senate Says Amateur Journalists Don't Deserve Shield Protection

from the and-why-not? dept

Congress has been working on a federal "shield" law that that allows journalists to protect their sources. This is an important concept, and many states already have local laws on that front. Unfortunately, as the Senate was working on its version of the bill, it's apparently decided that the law should only apply to professional journalists who make their living that way. If you happen to just write a blog post that exposes some sort of wrong, you'll have no shield protections. Or if you write for a participatory media site and blow a whistle, again, you'll have no shield protection for your sources. While not all that surprising (do you really think our Senators understand the value of participatory journalism), it's still disappointing.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Just more ways to give "professional" journalism a government granted unlevel playing field. They make laws that make it easier only for the status quo to investigate an issue and collect info anonymously and then they turn around and complain that only the status quo does a good job investigating the issue and that professional journalists are the only ones that do a good job at fact checking and uncovering hidden information. Seriously, how did these people get elected? We need to elect more people from the pirate party.

     

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      Designerfx (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

      wow, smart anon

      bingo, really.

      I'm voting PP in 10 and so is everyone I know.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

        Re: wow, smart anon

        Very good, I hope techdirt gives us lists of pirate party candidates and dates of voting.

        The government has stopped serving the people a long time ago and we need to make it VERY CLEAR who they serve, WE THE PEOPLE, not them the industry.

         

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Clarify?

    "it's apparently decided that the law should only apply to professional journalists who make their living that way."

    Really? How does one define what is "making a living"?

    For instance, what if the person is a relatively new journalist with no other source of income but for a small newspaper paying him/her, and that income amounts to $10k per year? Is that really "making a living"?

    Or how about the owner of a major news website that makes a significant amount of money in their endeavors, but that owner makes MORE money from other sources (say, a financial reporter who is also a financial consultant)? He isn't making his living from being a journalist, though he's making a great deal of money doing it.

    Or is it just as simple as anyone making money from their journalism is protected? In which case you just pay your blog journalists a penny per piece and call it a day.

    When are people going to realize that laws need to be a combination of simple and clearly defined, or they don't work?

     

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      iNtrigued (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

      Re: Clarify?

      Here you go dark helmet:

      (iii) obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity— (I) that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means; and (II) that— (aa) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical; (bb) operates a radio or television broadcast station, network, cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier; (cc) operates a programming service; or (dd) operates a news agency or wire service;

      This is their definition of Professional Journalist. And Like Dan Gillmor stated under the original article, this is clearly just a trap for a licensing system. Just think, another large organization you have to pay to be a part of their "club" and if you don't they will have you arrested/fined/banished.

       

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        Glaze, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 3:26pm

        Re: Re: Clarify?

        So the loop hole here is the term "independent contractor" you don't neccessarily have to be "employed" (by which I mean earn money) in order to be an independent contractor, you just have to have filed a contract with the reporting organization, blog, website, etc. This then makes you an "independent contractor". The contract doesn't have to mention anything about compensation, just that you are "employed under the terms of the contract". Bloggers listen up... anything your sources send in, you just need to have a piece of paper now that says you are under contract by [insert blog/website name here]... badda bing badda boom you are now an independent contractor for your own blog/website.

         

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          iNtrigued (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 1:16pm

          Re: Re: Re: Clarify?

          I just remembered how much I love that phrase, "Badda Bing Badda Boom!" Yet I only have an idea where it actually came from, some Italian movie/show/what-have-you, and what the noises mean, something being done/made. I don't know either for sure, if someone could enlighten me I would be very grateful.

           

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    iNtrigued (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    That's Lobbyists for you!

    Like you Mike, I am not surprised at all that the "Senators" made the decision. But I none-the-less am very disappointed in our Congress, and I believe I am with a majority of the American public on that one.

    And I say "Senators" because I really mean the lobbyists that are plaguing our country's Legislative system.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:30pm

      Re: That's Lobbyists for you!

      "And I say "Senators" because I really mean the lobbyists that are plaguing our country's Legislative system."

      No no no... LAWS are what's plaguing our country's Legislative system.

       

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    Yes indeedy

    "do you really think our Senators understand the value of participatory journalism"

    Obviously, they do.

     

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    Another AC, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Its all politics

    The content industries have the money and they are truly buying what they want in the political system. Whether it be Music, News, Movies, Software. I don't think there is much that anyone can do about it. They only listen to the lobbyists. Our government is truly broken to such an extent that the only people who will have rights will be the ones that can afford to pay for them.

     

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    Derek Reed, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    RE: Yes indeedy

    Implying that they do understand the value and are collaboratively working to devalue it? If so, I think you give our average senator farrrrr too much credit.

    I'm pretty sure we're talking about this guy
    http://media.photobucket.com/image/Chuck%20Schumer/Attaturk/chuck_schumer_AlexWong3.jpg

     

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    lux (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Makes sense.

    I agree with this decision.

    Those who make their living as an investigative journalists should be afforded privileges that any Joe Blow with a video camera and a pad of paper should not.

    Is this any different from practicing medicine, law or even a Private Investigator without proper licensing? No. Why? Because you can do damage with a pen.

    Also, name 5 amateur journalist stories that NEED to protect their sources, then, answer me why THOSE SAME sources would not go to a major media outlet to break their story.

    And...go

     

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      Alan Gerow (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

      Re: Makes sense.

      "Those who make their living as an investigative journalists should be afforded privileges that any Joe Blow with a video camera and a pad of paper should not."

      How about you answer me why the government needs to be granting certain people special "privileges"? How does the government have the power to give a small group these "privileges" over another group simply out of favoritism? Where in the mandates of our government does it state that one of the purposes of government is to "give some people special privileges at the expense of others"? Why is the government even involved in this situation to begin with?

      I guess a professional journalist who sits in an office and reads and reprints press releases and copies & pastes stories from blogs they found through Google needs special "privileges" because they AREN'T out in the communities with "a video camera and a pad of paper". I guess the special "privileges" are designed so that those who are actually doing reporting work can't be protected because a major multi-national company isn't paying corporate taxes for them to be "professional", but those who don't do the real work need their jobs protected because no one's buying what they're reselling anymore. That makes sense.

       

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      Sneeje (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:30pm

      Re: Makes sense.

      Well, I'm not going to take the bait of your first request.

      However, your second request is built upon a faulty assumption--that only those sources/information deemed worthy of attention by major news outlets is a legitimate story. You are presuming that major media outlets don't filter what they report on, or that even if they do, they do so with the purest of intentions.

      The only way the truth will be free, is if it is free to be unleashed by any single human being, not only by those with corporate and revenue-based interests.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

      Re: Makes sense.

      "Is this any different from practicing medicine, law or even a Private Investigator without proper licensing? No. Why? Because you can do damage with a pen. "

      Freedom of speech can be damaging against those who act unethically but that is no excuse to restrict freedom of speech.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 10:58pm

      Re: Makes sense.

      I think it's important to give non - journalists anonymity just as well because non - journalists who work for a specific corporation or for a specific entity (ie: cops) may give us insight that journalists simply can't begin to give us and respond to comments in ways that journalists can't respond to and these insights are important for us. Journalists are generalists that can't begin to give us the same details of a specific situation that someone involved can give us and if something is of public concern it should be public knowledge and the person telling us should be given anonymity. There is really no good reason to destroy that anonymity unless the true purpose is to punish someone for holding a position that one disagrees with or for publicly telling people the truth about an issue.

      Take this example of where anonymity was removed

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090922/1611326286.shtml

      This person offered us insight into how patents were being abused, such insight is relevant to everyone because it is the government that grants patents on behalf of society and society has every right to know how these patents are being used.

      Another example is

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090917/0354056223.shtml

      The scare mongering you bring up are just a bunch of lies, mostly put out by the mainstream media, to scare the naive government full of conflicts of interest into giving mainstream media an unjust unlevel playing field so that anyone who discusses an issue that disagrees with the status quo can be fired from their employer and otherwise be punished. The whole purpose has nothing to do with damage caused by a pen.

      "Also, name 5 amateur journalist stories that NEED to protect their sources, then, answer me why THOSE SAME sources would not go to a major media outlet to break their story. "

      A: As has already been shown, mainstream media may censor certain information or they may discuss them with a certain bias while censoring certain sides of the issue. Another example of this is here

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/monsanto-forced-fox-tv-to_b_186428.html

      Also, perhaps the person doesn't like mainstream media and prefers a specific blog because mainstream media turns everything into their intellectual property and the person reporting does not want what they report on to be intellectual property.

      "answer me why THOSE SAME sources would not go to a major media outlet to break their story. "

      You are basically admitting that your whole attempt is an attempt to give mainstream media an unlevel playing field that they DO NOT deserve. It has absolutely nothing to do with protecting anyone and you know it. You want everything that gets reported to be someones intellectual property and perhaps the people who turn in the information want an outlet that they can turn in their stories anonymously where the stories are no ones intellectual property. But of course that is not what you want, what you want, and the TRUE reason you want mainstream media to get the story and to have no competitors get the story, is exactly because you want mainstream media to hold the intellectual property rights over the story so then you can complain about how blogs parasite off of mainstream media when in fact it's mainstream media that has forced people not to be able to send stories to blogs to be released without intellectual property so that blogs can self sustain.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 11:11pm

        Re: Re: Makes sense.

        In other words it's not that blogs parasite off of mainstream media. Blogs are perfectly capable of reporting news on their own without the help of mainstream media and they are perfectly capable of investigating without the help of mainstream media as we have shown many times here. In fact, as we have shown, many times mainstream media parasites off of blogs and they don't give credit (they even have a policy not to give credit) and blogs spend considerable time correcting mainstream media's mistakes. It's that what you want are laws that give mainstream media an unfair level playing field to force people to report their news to mainstream media so that mainstream media can hold the intellectual property on it. Then you have the excuse that blogs parasite off of mainstream media when in fact mainstream media is not even needed, people can just blog about their stories or give their stories to unanonymous bloggers to blog about while keeping the person who bloged anonymous. In such a way a blog can maintain itself without parasiting off of mainstream media. But what you want is to restrict the ability for blogs to report on issues and then you want mainstream media to hold the intellectual property on all reporting so you can complain about the parasitic nature of blogs when they have no choice but to copy mainstream media (because you have restricted their ability to report on issues themselves) and in fact it's not that blogs need to parasite off of mainstream media, it's that the laws you put in place have forced them to under false pretexts. If blogs are perfectly capable of reporting on issue without mainstream media why should people be forced to have their reported news become the intellectual property of mainstream media? That's nonsense and it's exactly why you want mainstream media to have an unlevel playing field. Why should people be forced to go to mainstream media to break their story? Why should those that do break their stories at mainstream media sources not go to blogs (well, mainstream media does have a government granted unlevel playing field where the government grants monopolies over the infrastructure and airwaves so they have more access to the public but they ABSOLUTELY DO NOT DESERVE that, they stole it through their lobbying efforts which is only less reason to use them due to their unethical practices)? Or why would someone choose one mainstream media source over another? Perhaps preference. Likewise, people should be able to choose a non mainstream media source, like techdirt or any other blog, that won't turn their news story into intellectual property.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 11:18pm

        Re: Re: Makes sense.

        See, I know exactly what this is about. This is about intellectual property. News outlets, like blogs, are PERFECTLY CAPABLE of surviving without intellectual property and they do a MUCH better job of reporting on the issues than mainstream media but what you want is to force every bit of reporting to be intellectual property so the rich and the powerful can exploit the population and benefit at the expense of the general public.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 11:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: Makes sense.

          News outlets, like blogs, are PERFECTLY CAPABLE of surviving without intellectual property and they do a MUCH better job of reporting on the issues than mainstream media (provided the government doesn't interfere with the free market that is, but what you want is government interference to destroy their ability to report on the issues in order to give mainstream media an unlevel playing field so they can use intellectual property to exploit the population and to benefit at everyone elses expense).

           

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      Speechis Notfree, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 10:58pm

      Re: Doesn't makes sense.

      If to quote you "the pen is a weapon" why, prey tell me should they (the weapons) only be in the hands of corporations....listen to yourself.

      I have voiced issues which may or may not have been as a result of someone providing me with information. Those issues have become laws and changed the course of billion dollar businesses. If I were to blab about my sources then I doubt I would get anyone talking to me and you would still be being reamed without even knowing it.

      I think you need to reassess your position in a calm and rational manner and try and put yourself in a neutral position. Your position will look even worse from there.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 11:13pm

        Re: Re: Doesn't makes sense.

        "If to quote you "the pen is a weapon" why, prey tell me should they (the weapons) only be in the hands of corporations"

        because we live in a corporocracy where only the rich and the powerful should have the pen and everyone else should have no power and we are to succumb to tyranny.

         

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    Mechwarrior, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

    I can't believe people keep voting this guy into office. I hope this falls afoul of the constitution if it gets passed. But hopefully, the Senate will dump the amendment as the tripe that it is.

     

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    stat_insig (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    How to become a "professional" journalist....

    Follow these steps:
    1. Buy the magazine Journalist's Club
    2. Look for the form on the last page
    3. Fill it out and send with a $100 check

     

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    DJ (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:57pm

    Not the First Amendment

    While this story sort of grazes the surface of the First Amendment, this directly impacts the FIFTH amendment: the right of every US citizen to say NOTHING about ANYTHING.

    Example: If I were to reveal a news story to you by word-of-mouth, technically, that instantly qualifies me as an amateur journalist. If you were to then ask me about my source, I am well within my Constitutional rights to stand there silently.

     

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 24th, 2009 @ 4:58pm

      Re: Not the First Amendment

      " If you were to then ask me about my source, I am well within my Constitutional rights to stand there silently."

      I seem to recall amnesty being used to remove any possibility of incrimination, and thus take away the fifth amendment as an option. But I'm not sure if that's Hollywood jurisprudence or not.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 7:55pm

        Re: Re: Not the First Amendment

        It might be the pharmaceutical corporations jurisprudence, but I'm sure that pharmaceutical corporations and Hollywood could work together on the matter. You know, checks and balances.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 11:33pm

    See, the whole purpose of freedom of speech is so that one can express their free speech without retaliation. If there is retaliation (ie: to lose ones job and not be able to get a job, to go to jail, or to get executed) then that defeats the purpose of freedom of speech.

    If someone wants to post anonymously why reveal their identity unless the purpose of doing so is to open the door for retaliation which defeats the purpose of having freedom of speech.

    and people should be able to post their news to non mainstream media outlets, like blogs, anonymously without having to fear that their news story will turn into someones intellectual property. They may want blogs to discuss the issue without having corrupt mainstream media sources calling the blogs parasites and going after everyone for intellectual property breach and what not. and people should ABSOLUTELY be given that option, to say what they want to say on the Internet for everyone to see anonymously without having what they say be anyone's intellectual property.

    This is the MAIN thing I'm concerned about, that people be given that option and the mainstream media wants to unethically take that option away from the people.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 4:57am

    The 5th Amendment just gives you the right not to be compelled to testify *against yourself* (and has been extended to apply to testifying against your spouse and IIRC maybe other family members). It's not a catch-all right to not testify about any subject. IANAL.

     

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    Tom, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 9:01am

    Ok, this law has flaws, but wouldn't this be better than no shield law at all?

     

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    Rick, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    I am an amateur journalist and I deserve those protections too.

     

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    PinchingAbe, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 4:35pm

    Wondering if this will be interpreted in such a way to screw over the "pimp and ho" who took on ACORN. How did they get in the know that they could pose as a hooker and pimp? They would not be able to protect their sources then since they were "citizen journalists" when they taped those exposes.

     

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    deauntay mckinney, Dec 22nd, 2009 @ 8:21pm

    amateur journalism

    Deauntay McKinney says - amateur journalist need the same protection as those whom get paid for the same job - i like it unto firefighting - some do it for pay while others do it as a public service - but the goal and level of protection remains the same .

     

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    internet dating, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 3:55am

    Interesting read,valuable advice given.

     

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