Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
How to buy into journalism’s blockchain future (in only 44 steps)
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.
How to buy into journalism’s blockchain future (in only 44 steps)
Blockchain-and-journalism startup Civil aims to build a decentralized infrastructure for news, and you can invest in their vision. It just might take you a while.
How the Broke in Philly collaboration is focusing local media’s attention on poverty and economic mobility
“As journalists, we’re taught to be competitive and territorial. On the other hand, things are changing dramatically, so don’t assume other people in your local market don’t want to collaborate.”
How France beat back information manipulation (and how other democracies might do the same)
“French success resulted from a combination of structural factors, luck, as well as the effective anticipation and reaction of the Macron campaign staff, the government, and civil society, especially the mainstream media.”