Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Federal Bill Would Limit Bloggers' Legal Rights

A recent amendment to the federal shield bill being considered in the Senate will exclude non-"salaried" journalists and bloggers from the proposed law's protections.

The law, called the Free Flow of Information Act, is intended to prevent journalists from being forced to divulge confidential sources, except in cases such as witnessing crimes or acts of terrorism.

Essentially, this means the new age of reporting and reporters, independent citizen journalists are left legally hanging out to dry. Independent bloggers are the target here. To quote Pam's Blend Blogger, Pam Spaulding: "At once we're considered irrelevant and so dangerous they have to legislatively set up a slippery slope that can land us in the clink or left penniless just for trying to participate in citizen journalism. Wow. The real issue here, however, is less the shield law than placing a definition of what is a journalist on the books. That will allow pols, news outlets, state governments, etc. to deny citizen journalists press access because they are not "journalists" as defined by federal law."

Schumer's amendment draws a distinct line between bloggers and "real journalists" that:
limits the definition of a journalist to one who "obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity-

a. that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means; and
b. that:

1. publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;

2. 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;

3. operates a programming service; or

4. operates a news agency or wire service."

To to be a journalist in Chuck Schumer's eyes, you have to both have a boss and that boss' company must disseminate news on some other medium beyond a blog. In the age of more freedom to publish what you choose when you choose, a legislator with a law designed to limit your rights and restrict your access. Just as more and more venues, from federal courts to sports teams, are accrediting bloggers as legitimate journalists, a United States Senator, probably afraid of the articles which would embarrass him, finds a way to restrict our freedom.

Shame on you Schumer, you hypocrite.

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