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July 1, 2013 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive.
posted by el io (20 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
"A journalist gathers information for a media outlet that disseminates the information through a broadly defined “medium” "

Does that mean that tabloid journalists who wait for press releases to come in / make up quotes from celebrities' "friends" wont be protected, or is that still classed as 'gathering information'?
posted by billiebee at 7:59 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, Twitter is a media outlet that broadly disseminates information, and Twitter users are agents that gather information for it, yes?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:12 AM on July 1, 2013


Great idea! Maybe have some kind of Writer's Union that they have to belong to, to even work as a freelancer, as well. That could be done under Congressional oversight, of course.
posted by thelonius at 8:12 AM on July 1, 2013


Sweet jeezus, I do not want some government hack defining what makes someone a journalist. A better, less pretentious word is "reporter." A reporter is one who reports to the public. Anyone who reports, even if they don't have a college degree in the subject and aren't employed by some corporation. Even if what they report is vapid and inconsequential. Even if it's scribbled out in pencil and reproduced on a copy machine and handed out on the sidewalk. The minute you report something, congratulations, you have just become a reporter and are entitled to full protection.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:17 AM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Defining a journalist is a backwards approach to the problem and reflects a worldview that's trapped in the past. If for the purposes of a shield law, you have to define what you're protecting, the better approach is to define journalism. That way, anybody who practices it, no matter under what circumstances that may arise in the future, is protected.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:19 AM on July 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


Most states already define journalists in some way. For instance, in Durbin's home state of Illinois, a reporter is:

"Reporter" means any person regularly engaged in the business of collecting, writing or editing news for publication through a news medium on a full‑time or part‑time basis . . . "

Interestingly, this definition issue also arose in the Citizens United case, since many newspapers and partisan media sources had the right to do something that the PAC Citizens United could not do.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:35 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having unregistered journalists is only a problem to Washington elites.

Right now most of Washington will only speak with supine hacks. If this sort of thing gets any traction, the same supine hacks will be the only ones with a license to practice journalism.
posted by banal evil at 8:36 AM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


We need to threaten the journalists so we can protect them.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:48 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


And while a prominent Democrat attacks freedom of the press, a well known Republican governor helps preserve it.
posted by el io at 9:05 AM on July 1, 2013


"To read the rest of the story, please register for free or, if you already have an account, LOGIN to your account."

nope
posted by lampshade at 9:25 AM on July 1, 2013


If everyone's a journalist then there's simply no argument to be made, at all, for any special rights and privileges for journalists. You can't simultaneously make an argument that there is some special institution which performs a function vital to the health of the polis and whose agents therefore deserve some extra legal protections when engaged in carrying out that function AND argue that absolutely everyone is automatically a member of that institution by virtue of their capacity to communicate with other human beings.
posted by yoink at 9:34 AM on July 1, 2013


It's not that everybody is a journalist, it's that anybody can be a journalist. As Horace Rumpole said up thread, you protect the activity regardless of who might do it. It's not the capacity to communicate that makes someone a journalist, it's the act of gathering information and disseminating it to the public.
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:42 AM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


lampshade: Unfortunately, it appears that's the only place his opinion piece occurs (which seems pretty broken to me - whats the point of having an opinion piece that people can't readily read).

If anyone can find another link to the article (google fails me), let me/the mods know, please.

I could read it one time without a problem, but reading the same article again fails (wow, way to mess that up, tribune)... Until I opened an 'incognito' window in chrome and tried it again. This may work for you as well.
posted by el io at 9:48 AM on July 1, 2013


Don't hate the media. Become the media. Becoming the media doesn't require permission.
posted by delfin at 9:59 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


To those who feel politicians shouldn’t define who a journalist is, I’d remind them that they likely live in one of the 49 states, like Illinois, where elected officials have already made that decision.

Let's definitely let this logician decide what things mean.
posted by yerfatma at 10:03 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most states already define journalists in some way.

For their shield law or because of SLAPP protections.

If you don't want to register there's liberal quoting from the piece here in an ill-considered response.

The fact that this is coming up after the Snowden stuff is disingenuous since none of the proposed shield legislation would have applied, but this hand-wringing over the government defining a journalist for the sake of shield laws is dumb. We define all sorts of things for the purposes of legal structures and a federal shield law is nothing but a good thing for the sake of journalism.

Now, do I as a "journalish" think that these definitions that hew to full-time exclusivity and codify exact publication standards are the best possible definitions? No. But nothing in these shield laws is going to take away from our basic 1st Am protections, so the end result of this is not to make us part-time news gatherers any more vulnerable than we already are. It simply provides some additional protection for the full-time folks.

Anyone interested in looking at the state of shield laws should check out this resource over at the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press that breaks things down by state as well as circuit courts.

I'm not sure where Durbin gets his 49 number since 13 states lack any shield laws at all.
posted by phearlez at 10:06 AM on July 1, 2013


Novel idea: maybe the law should define and protect the act of journalism itself. Basically "the dissemination of information in the public interest" and make it platform and person agnostic. Deciding that someone is not a journalist because they use twitter instead of wordpress instead of MSNBC doesn't make a lot of sense.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:45 AM on July 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Novel idea: maybe the law should define and protect the act of journalism itself.

They are. For the sake of shield laws they often restrict it to people who make this their full-time gig so that someone can't easily waste the court's time with spurious claims that their extortion business is journalism, but the definitions often are built around the activity.

In DC: The privilege set forth in the District's shield law belongs to a person who is or has been employed by the news media in a news gathering or news disseminating capacity. D.C. Code § 16-4702. - See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/district-columbia-privilege-compendium/b-whose-privilege-it#sthash.UjRA70ps.dpuf

In California: A publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service, or any person who has been so connected or employed, cannot be adjudged in contempt by a judicial, legislative, administrative body, or any other body having the power to issue subpoenas, for refusing to disclose, in any proceeding as defined in Section 901, the source of any information procured while so connected or employed for publication in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication, or for refusing to disclose any unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public. - See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/california-privilege-compendium/shield-law-statute#sthash.54CGziIM.dpuf

Deciding that someone is not a journalist because they use twitter instead of wordpress instead of MSNBC doesn't make a lot of sense.

Plenty of us agree, but when the choice is a shield law covering some people vs no shield law at all then considerations should be made.
posted by phearlez at 11:51 AM on July 1, 2013


"I could read it one time without a problem, but reading the same article again fails (wow, way to mess that up, tribune)... Until I opened an 'incognito' window in chrome and tried it again. This may work for you as well.

Yeah, the Sun-Times is an annoying site. I was not objecting to the article at all, but the ST stupidity. Anyway, incognito worked once but flaked out on re-load. So I used a different browser and printed to PDF.

Now I just have to read the thing!
posted by lampshade at 12:33 PM on July 1, 2013


If a grand jury is ordering that you reveal your sources, you might be a journalist.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy
posted by history_denier at 1:15 PM on July 1, 2013


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