The Media Shield & Feinstein’s Antipathy to Journalists

Congress is considering a media shield law to protect journalists from being compelled to testify in court about their sources. Unfortunately, Sen. Dianne Feinstein believes only paid reporters are journalists. The good news is her proposed amendment doesn’t do what she thinks it does.

Sen. Feinstein’s belief demonstrates her ignorance of the role of citizen journalists (such as bloggers) in the modern dissemination of news. The emergence of the Internet as a low-cost publishing platform has exponentially increased the number of government watchdogs, and society is much better for it.

Why, then, limit the media shield to paid reporters? The First Amendment protects “freedom of speech, or of the press.” I fail to see why you need to be employed by the mainstream media to enjoy these protections, especially since the “mainstream media” as we know it today did not exist during the Founding.

Of course, the anti-blogger amendment introduced by Sen. Feinstein may not mean what she thinks it means. It states that the law will only apply to a “salaried employee, independent contractor, or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information.” Well, gee, guess what entity means:

Legally, equal to a person who might owe taxes. A generic term inclusive of person, partnership, organization, or business. An entity can be legally bound. An entity is uniquely identifiable from any other entity.

That’s according to Black’s Law Dictionary (or at least the free online equivalent I’m accessing from Cafe Chloe).

In other words, an “entity that disseminates news or information” can be…well, any person or any organization that disseminates news or information. Such as any blogger or blogging organization.

On second thought, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and let this broadly worded amendment pass.

Categories: Free Speech and Public Interest Law.