HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Internet Archive hopes to boost its collections through funding from the Knight News Challenge
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 3, 2009, 10:36 a.m.

Feinstein and Durbin seeking to narrow shield law’s scope

Senators Diane Feinstein and Dick Durbin are attempting to narrow the definition of a journalist in the federal shield law under consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. Their amendment would limit protection from testifying to professional journalists working for “a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical.” Not included: student journalists, amateur bloggers, or even freelancers working without a contract.

Markos Moulitsas had the news last night. I’ve been on the phone this morning with people who have worked on the bill, and the consensus is that Feinstein and Durbin are introducing the amendment out of national security concerns: If the shield law is too broad, they reason, it could afford protection to criminals and terrorists who claim the mantle of journalism. Neither senator’s office has returned my calls, and it’s not clear if the amendment will be adopted at today’s committee meeting.

The version of the shield law already passed by the House (H. 985) defines a journalist in monetary terms, covering only those who gather and disseminate information “for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain.” The Senate has waffled between a similarly professional definition and one that would cover amateurs. The White House, which had dragged its feet on the shield law over national-security concerns, is said to support the broader definition.

A number of news-industry groups, including the Newspaper Association of America, are also supporting coverage for amateurs. Kevin Goldberg, general counsel for the American Society of News Editors, told me today: “There are already exemptions for national security in the bill. If the concern is that the guy holding the video camera for an Osama bin Laden tape is not going to have to testify, that’s a little far-fetched.”

Feinstein and Durbin have leverage here: “If those two really stick to this hard and say we won’t pass a bill without this langugage, they could make a lot of trouble because they are the swing Democrats on this bill,” Goldberg said. However, Senators Jon Kyl and Jeff Sessions, both Republicans, are the only members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who are known to oppose the bill in its entirety, so the support of Feinstein and Durbin may not be necessary.

Today’s committee meeting is underway, so we’ll see. In the meantime, you can read the proposed amendment below and try to parse who might or might not be covered. Goldberg said he’s concerned the language, in addition to excluding amateurs, could omit freelance reporters and photographers doing work without a contract. In addition, he said, “depending on how you define periodical, could exclude web-based publications like Slate and Salon.”

POSTED     Dec. 3, 2009, 10:36 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Internet Archive hopes to boost its collections through funding from the Knight News Challenge
The home of the Wayback Machine and other efforts to preserve the Internet is among 22 projects based around libraries receiving $3 million in funding through the Knight News Challenge.
Constantly tweaking: How The Guardian continues to develop its in-house analytics system
Since its launch in 2011, The Guardian has consistently made changes to its in-house analytics tool, Ophan.
Bloomberg Business’ new look has made a splash — but don’t just call it a redesign
Bloomberg digital editor Joshua Topolsky on uncomfortable news design, new ad units, and why they killed the comments.
What to read next
2902
tweets
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
728From explainers to sounds that make you go “Whoa!”: The 4 types of audio that people share
How can public radio make audio that breaks big on social media? A NPR experiment identified what makes a piece of audio go viral.
722Q&A: Amy O’Leary on eight years of navigating digital culture change at The New York Times
“In 2007, as digital people, we were expected to be 100 percent deferent to all traditional processes. We weren’t to bother reporters or encourage them to operate differently at all, because what they were doing was the very core of our journalism.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Spot.Us
Bloomberg
Wikipedia
The Washington Post
Voice Media Group
The Atlantic
Los Angeles Times
The Daily Telegraph
Tumblr
Kaiser Health News
Hearst
Newsweek