DOJ's New 'Less Likely To Spy On Press' Rules Only Apply To Whoever DOJ Feels Is Really 'News Media'
from the seems-like-a-big-loophole dept
We recently mentioned that the DOJ has put out its revamped guidelines in which the organization promises to be a little more careful before spying on journalists and their sources (and friends, colleagues and family…). However, as some are pointing out, the guidelines appear to be pretty careful about defining “the press” to only mean “people who work for big media organizations.” Everyone else is fair game.
DIOG does include online news in its definition of media (PDF 157).
“News media” includes persons and organizations that gather, report or publish news, whether through traditional means (e.g., newspapers, radio, magazines, news service) or the on-line or wireless equivalent. A “member of the media” is a person who gathers, reports, or publishes news through the news media.
But then it goes on to exclude bloggers from those included in the term “news media.”
The definition does not, however, include a person or entity who posts information or opinion on the Internet in blogs, chat rooms or social networking sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace, unless that person or entity falls within the definition of a member of the media or a news organization under the other provisions within this section (e.g., a national news reporter who posts on his/her personal blog).
Then it goes onto lay out what I will call the “WikiLeaks exception.”
As the term is used in the DIOG, “news media” is not intended to include persons and entities that simply make information available. Instead, it is intended to apply to a person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the general public, uses editorial skills to turn raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience, as a journalism professional.
This kind of issue keeps coming up with the discussions around a “media shield” law, in which politicians keep suggesting that we need an official designation for who is and who is not a journalist. Of course, as we’ve been saying for years, that’s silly and antiquated. You could easily write such a shield law to be about protecting journalism rather than journalists. That’s because, these days, almost anyone can do journalism, if the opportunity presents itself. If someone is trying to bring important information to the public, that’s a journalism role, and those actions should be protected, no matter who the employer might be.
The government’s continued insistence that it somehow needs to define who is and who is not a journalist seems like it’s not just a mistake from a policy perspective, but also something that (perhaps on purpose) leaves open a giant loophole to spy on lots of people the government probably shouldn’t be spying on.