Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Newsonomics: McCormick Media’s back in the Tronc game, as eyes turn to the TRNC ticker
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 23, 2009, 11:33 a.m.

Shield law: Definition of “journalist” gets professionalized

Last week, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to vote on a federal shield law, I wrote about the competing definitions of a journalist in the House and Senate versions of the bill. Well, I have bad news on two fronts: The Judiciary Committee didn’t vote on the shield law, but it did adopt an amendment that would exclude amateur journalists from protection.

Previously, the Senate was working with a version of the shield law (S. 448) that defined a journalist in broad terms, focusing on the process and craft of newsgathering. That stood in contrast to the House version (H.R. 985), which passed in March and defines a journalist as someone who gathers news and information “for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain.”

On Thursday, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered an amendment to the Senate version that hews toward the professional definition in the House. Under the amendment, which was adopted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a journalist is defined as someone who:

(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;

As I observed last week, the shield law obviously needs a definition that limits its scope, but the professional definition, which now seems inevitable, would exclude student journalists as well as bloggers with a day job.

POSTED     Sept. 23, 2009, 11:33 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
 
Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: McCormick Media’s back in the Tronc game, as eyes turn to the TRNC ticker
What will happen to the price of Tronc shares as investors, a good number of speculators among them, assess the post-L.A. Times value of a major daily newspaper chain effectively halved in the deal?
With its Facebook Watch news show, Alabama’s Reckon wants to make a national audience care about local news
More Facebook Watch news shows are on the way — but is the effort worth it for all local publishers?
There’s a big difference between the number of people who worry about fake news and who say they’ve actually seen it
Plus: Facebook looks to hire “news credibility specialists,” and Reuters tries to figure out if highly partisan sites are gaining traction in and outside the U.S. (it looks as if they’re not).