Web loggers will probably not be covered by a proposed federal shield law, says Sen. Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.). Appearing at a conference of the Inter American Press Association, the beetle-browed, Chiclet-toothed "successful combination of gentlemanly civility, high intellect, intrinsic integrity and tough discipline" noted that the final version of his Free Flow of Information Act will probably define journalism more restrictively:
As to who is a reporter, this will be a subject of debate as this bill goes farther along… Are bloggers journalists or some of the commercial businesses that you here would probably not consider real journalists? Probably not, but how do you determine who will be included in this bill?
In its current form, the FFOIA defines a covered person as anybody who "publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical in print or electronic form." Declan McCullagh has more about these definitions:
Exact wording matters. Last year, U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith ruled that Alabama's shield law doesn't protect Sports Illustrated because the statute mentions only newspapers and broadcasters. Trying to squeeze a magazine into that definition, Smith wrote, "strains the commonly understood meanings of those words."
Then there are other legal twists such as the California Constitution, which was raised by Apple's lawsuits. It protects anyone currently or previously employed by "a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service." (Emphasis added.) That shields sites like News.com, Salon.com, and Slate.com–typically staffed by ex-newspaper reporters–but probably doesn't help bloggers or the Apple defendants.
A college student and unconventional speller supports licensing of journalists. Matt Welch proposes a less restrictive shield. And the most important press freedom of all: the right of the paparazzi to cause celebrity car accidents.