Internet

Are Bloggers Journalists?: Redux

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By a vote of 398-21, the House voted to protect journalists and some bloggers from being forced to reveal confidential info on the witness stand–sort of. The Free Flow of Information Act was seriously watered down as it evolved, stripping what skimpy protection it offers from "casual" bloggers.

Here's the progression, as charted by friend-of-reason Declan McCullagh:

#1 Original version:

The term "covered person" means a person engaged in journalism and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

#2 Second version approved by a House committee:

The term "covered person" means a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

#3 Third version as approved by the full House:

The term "covered person" means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

Whew, glad Judy Miller and I made it in under the wire, even if I don't think journalists should have special protections in the first place.

The courts and Congress need to get their story straight about whether bloggers are legit media or not.

NEXT: Howley on Red Eye Tonight

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  1. “concerns local, national, or international events”

    What about someone who covers intergalactic events?

  2. Some animals are more equal than others.

    This is why “bloggers” should be flogged to death with live crocodiles.

  3. “even if I don’t think journalists should have special protections in the first place.”

    Which is why the distinction is irrelevant IMO. Both categories cover the spectrum from morons and ideologs to rational, fact-based investigators.

  4. Are Bloggers Journalists?

    Hey, it’s the internet. Everybody’s a journalist. Thus, everybody gets special protections. Of course since everybody gets them, they’re not really very special are they?

    Maybe the best thing for this bill would have been a quiet death in committee.

  5. Funny, since I thought the 1st Amendment already covered this. “Congress shall pass no law…” blah blah blah. A blog is nothing more than a new version of the press, and should be subject to all the protections given to the press, and also face any laws regarding libel, copyright, etc. Why do we even need this ridiculous new law?

  6. See, to me the third version seems to provide better coverage than the second. I guess it depends on how regularly “regularly” means.

  7. The term “covered person” means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

    See, this is not good. Let’s take Radley Balko as a prime example. Right now, he has a bunch of stuff in the works and it is definitely a “substantial portion” of his livelihood. But what about when he was just starting out with his personal blog? What if, as a “non-journalist” he discovered* a corrupt government racket, say the City Council working in conjunction with the local police to force a barkeeper to sell his joint. So, because he doesn’t make any portion of his livelihood from this investigation and regular reporting of it on his personal blog, he can be called into court whereas a “real” journalist cannot?

    What a crock of fermenting shit.

    *This is not to imply that Mr. Balko is the discoverer of the Rack N’ Roll saga nor that he was not a journalist at the time it was first published on his personal blog.

  8. See, this is not good.

    Kwix, 100% agreement here. My reasoning follows. Defining a journalist in a law is to the freedom of the press, as defining clergy in a law is to the free exercise of religion. If I claim to be a journalist, or a minister, then I am one. In Germany they define what is and is not a religion. That really is anti-freedom. Likewise, defining who is or is not a journalist, is anti-freedom.

    I don’t care how much lipstick they put on it, this still squeals and wallows in the mud.

  9. What makes journalism a profession? Is there a certifying professional standards body like in Architecture, law or medicine? Or is it simpley the fact that someone earns a living doing it and beleives they are a journalist?

    Seems like the government determining who is or isn’t a hairstylist…except that I thought the first and fifth amendments pretty much meant we could say–or not say–whatever we wanted to big G.

  10. If you don’t like it, you can always move to another internet.

  11. John-David,

    “Congress shall pass no law” is exactly right. They’re NOT passing a law re: bloggers, so I don’t understand what the bitching is about.

  12. In other words, “freedom of the press” doesn’t include special priveleges to get out of having to testify at a criminal proceeding, imho.

  13. crimethink,

    I agree. If there are no such privileges for the press, there should be none for bloggers, but whatever privileges are afforded the press should equally apply to bloggers. I just don’t understand anything about this law and its necessity.

  14. Last time I looked, the First Amendment covered all human Americans,
    even journalists and bloggers.

  15. In other words, “freedom of the press” doesn’t include special priveleges to get out of having to testify at a criminal proceeding, imho.

    crimethink, Don’t be humble. You’re absolutely, 100% correct.

  16. What did George Washington have to say about political pamphleters who had never held a “newspaper” job, and wrote and printed out of a need to say something rather than for employment?

    I believe he one won the revolution.

    If you know that, you know why politicians will not want bloggers to be members of the “press”.

    If blogging isn’t equivalent to pamphletering, I don’t know what is.

  17. You’ve got the question backwards. It should be “Are journalists legitimate bloggers?”

  18. Blogging is journalism like diarrhea is the perfect tapered loaf.
    Reason journalists exempted, of course.

  19. Whether or not journalists can be forced to reveal confidential sources is not really a First Amendment issue.

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