Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Are you passionate about journalism? Job ads and hiring editors sure want you to be
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 60,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Are you passionate about journalism? Job ads and hiring editors sure want you to be
News outlets seem to want “passion for the work” above all else in who they hire. But all that passion comes with an unhealthy price tag.
“To kill a journalist in Mexico is like killing no one”: Journalists in 40 Mexican cities protest following three murders
“Every time a journalist is killed, it silences the issue they were investigating.”
Local news takes flight in South Dakota’s largest city
Pigeon 605 is delivering personalized local news to residents in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.