NY Governor Offers Journalists A Gift No Journalist Would Be Interested In Receiving

from the stop-trying-to-help dept

File under: Things No One Asked For

In case you can’t read/see the tweet, it’s New York governor Andrew Cuomo threatening to enact a #JournalistsLivesMatter law — something no journalist has ever suggested they might want.

Let’s make assaulting the press a felony in New York State. Last year saw heinous and deadly attacks against members of the press, journalists must be protected from the threat of physical harm for just for doing their jobs.

While it’s refreshing to see a political figure think someone other than law enforcement might need a little extra protection, sentencing enhancements that only apply when certain people are assaulted or killed is never the answer. The state already has a law against assaulting journalists. It’s called assault. And in certain cases, it can be felony. (Which, ironically enough, happens anytime anyone assaults a cop in New York.)

There’s no reason for journalists to be afforded extra protections just because of their job. If it doesn’t make sense for cops, it doesn’t make sense for journalists. A profession is not a race, gender, or religious persuasion. Hate crime laws make very little sense themselves, but at least they address the fact people may be targeted for aspects about themselves they have no control over. Journalists and cops don’t need to be journalists and cops. A person’s race is not a choice and they can be targeted for abuse and physical attacks simply for being the wrong color.

But there’s a disturbing aspect to this proposal you won’t find in Blue Lives Matter laws: the government gets to pick and choose who’s a journalist. That’s something we really don’t want the government to be doing because it invites direct intervention in First Amendment protected activities.

We’ve already seen some legislators attempt to do this while pushing for shield laws. While it’s a good idea to leave journalists unmolested by government agencies — especially in light of Attorney General nominee William Barr’s remarks during his confirmation hearing — the laws allow the government to decide who’s a journalist and who can be forced to turn over sources without repercussion.

Journalism is an action as much as it is a profession. WikiLeaks personnel should be eligible for shield law protections as should a local blogger who covers small town political issues. Anyone continuously pestering the government with FOIA requests is engaged in journalism, even if all they do is dump the documents in the public domain with a minimum of commentary. Shield laws — and Cuomo’s severe misreading of the room — make journalism just a bit riskier by giving the government the power to decide who’s qualified to bring you the news.

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Comments on “NY Governor Offers Journalists A Gift No Journalist Would Be Interested In Receiving”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Press, how we like it, as we like it, oh, and here's a cookie

Cuomo is not just taking the position to determine by fiat who is and who are not journalists, he is trying to suck up to a press who might not like him very much, or at least some of them. While the former might be a boon to some journalists, it most certainly is not to others. As to the latter, I don’t think it would be hard to determine that the press will not be impressed, whether they are deemed press by Cuomo or not.

U.S. Constitution

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Funny thing. I just don’t see any definition of press in there. Now some will argue that the ‘press’ were people with printing presses at the time the Amendment was written and should exclude all others. Yet we have precedent that radio and TV and goodness forbid Cable reporters are also press. That means that the concept grew as technology grew. So with the advent of the Internet they want to exclude, well lets face it, bloggers, or others who might be pigeonholed into that category.

So that leaves the reason government wants to control who is or is not ‘press’ is because there are more people willing to speak their minds and are not ‘controlled’ by some editor, who in turn is controlled by some publisher, who in turn might be controlled by some corporation. In fact, the government thinks these ‘members’ of the press are out of control. But isn’t that the pure basis of that 1st Amendment? The whole Raison d’etre of the Fourth Estate, which is also not strictly defined.

The ‘press’, however defined gets to tell the government what they think of the governments performance, whether the government likes it or not, and the government trying to ‘control’ who is or is not press certainly seems like some toddlers arguing whether it is bedtime or not. Oh, and the rest of us peons get to do so as well.

Now as to the revelation of sources, why would the government have any interest at all? Oh, right, they might try and change the conversation from whatever they were called upon to ‘whistleblower’ or ‘traitor’ or anything other than the substance of whatever what published that they don’t like. Far be it for government to actually listen and take responsibility and corrective action on whatever blunder caused the press person to cause them some heartburn. Wave hands, change the subject, make the reporter the bad person and ignore the wrong doing.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Press, how we like it, as we like it, oh, and here's a cooki

Good points, but let’s simplify it so it’s easy to see the problem.

Police: Give us you sources!

Journalist: Go suck eggs! I don’t have to, I’m a journalist.

Police: Not according to the new law passed to protect journalists. You’re now a nobody, and hence not protected by shield laws anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Press, how we like it, as we like it, oh, and here's a c

There is already precedent regarding what constitutes a journalist for the purpose of enforcing shield laws.

It would probably come down to some “journalistic function” test that focuses on what the alleged journalist was doing at the time they were attacked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Press, how we like it, as we like it, oh, and here's a cooki

To me, the word “press” is not used as a proper pronoun in the 1st Amendment, but as a common noun. It’s purpose is to tell the government that it cannot enact laws restricting speech in written form. Whenever someone tries to say that it applies to “The Press” (i.e., news orgs) I get really annoyed. The purpose of the constitution is to limit govt powers, and the B-O-R to enumerate (some of our) individual rights – i.e, we the people get to exercise them however we wish, as long as we don’t infringe on another’s rights in doing so.

Anonymous Coward says:

"No Journalist Would Be Interested In Receiving"


It’s charming to see in this new millenium such innocents as those who think are any journalists around, especially in the "mainstream media", rather than carefully selected for adherence to the Establishment agenda hacks who will reward Cuomo with favorable coverage just for floating this notion.

C10H14N2 says:

Re: Equality under the Law


…. you are quite correct in ethical theory & constitutional basics — but in practice there’s a wide gap between that and the government officials who actually apply/enforce laws.

Cuomo is a powerful government official who feels free to create his own legal concepts of right and wrong… with selective application to various sub-groups in society.
He is therefore dangerous.

Rule-by-Men is radically different from Rule-of-Law

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Equality under the Law

If you dig back through history, you’ll find that NYC Mayors, NY Governors and Attorneys General, you’ll discover that they have a penchant for enacting “new” laws that are exactly the same as existing laws, but with a catchy name.

It’s safe grandstanding of them doing something “good”.

I can see this one backfiring fast though – it’ll become known as “The Paparazzi Protection Act” the first time someone famous is prosecuted under it for punching out a stalking “journalist”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Equality under the Law

Do rich and influential people have to fear repercussions of their physical assaults upon journalists, or anyone for that matter? I doubt it, they get the symbolic slap upon the wrist occasionally accompanied by the much feared finger wagging. Now the story would be completely different if an average citizen were to do these things because such behavior is unacceptable from real people.

Republican candidate charged with assault after ‘body-slamming’ Guardian reporter


Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) threatens reporter: ‘I’ll break you in half’


Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Equality under the Law

To be fair, overzealous reporters (and/or paparazzi) do exist. What is a person to do when they get up in your face with their microphones screaming their questions, impede your progress, or in other ways violating your personal space and/or privacy?

The 1st Amendment does not require someone to answer ones questions. There are some other laws that require public officials to answer questions, and sadly public officials seem to find more and more ways to avoid that responsibility. Private citizens, whether celebrity or head of a corporation, or someone accused of some crime are not required to respond, no matter how badly the press wants a response.

In some cases members of the press needs to learn some manners, and in others some form of assault and/or battery charges should be laid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: corruption runs rampant

Only 24% of New York citizens actually voted for Cuomo in November 2018 — ain’t democracy and majority rule great.
No way that corrupt minorities can get control of the government.

New York state 2018 voter turnout was only 42%.
Only 49% of ‘Registered’ voters cast a ballot.
Cuomo got 57.9% of ballots cast.

C10H14N2 says:

Re: illegality

“illegality” is not the issue here — it’s the degree of penalty assigned to the illegal assault … based upon the societal status of the victim.

Cuomo asserts that laws should be unequally applied to people.

Most Americans probably agree with him… depending on the specific law involved. (and there are hundreds of thousands laws out there in America)

btr1701 (profile) says:


> A profession is not a race, gender, or religious
> persuasion. Hate crime laws make very little sense
> themselves, but at least they address the fact people may
> be targeted for aspects about themselves they have no
> control over.

Since when does one have no control over one’s religion?

People leave one faith and convert to another all the time. Or just stop believing altogether.

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