Media Shield Law or Government Takeover of News?

Joe Scudder
Written by Joe Scudder

Chuck Schumer claims we need a media shield law to protect “journalists” — but only the journalists that  Schumer recognizes as “legitimate.”

Chuck Schumer says a federal media shield law has enough voters to pass in the Senate.

That would be bad!

Schumer’s media shield law will protect journalists, provided they qualify as journalists under the definition in the media shield law.

The First Amendment is the only media shield law we need! Any law that makes a journalist an officially defined occupation is an attempt to circumvent the Bill of Rights.

This bill apparently hasn’t improved since it was floated under the Obama administration:

Jason Stverak writes in U.S. News, “The Senate’s Feel-Good Shield Law.

As proposed, Schumer’s bill would be a federal version of “shield laws” that already exist in 48 states. Significantly, those laws protect reporters from being compelled to identify their sources. In effect, the legislation would bolster First Amendment protections by preventing courts from punishing journalists who refuse to give up their sources. Although this is a worthy cause, the bill would limit these protections to those who fit the very narrow parameters of what Congress considers “the press.” These parameters focus on a reporter’s salary, employer and frequency of publication, and exclude those who don’t fit the traditional mold of a journalist.

Alarmingly, Schumer said the bill would “probably not [offer] enough protections” to cover Glenn Greenwald, the journalist for British daily the Guardian who first reported on the federal court order that required Verizon to turn over phone records to the NSA, and who also published sensitive documents leaked by Edward Snowden. (Greenwald now works for First Look Media.) This very scandal was a major motivating factor behind calls for a federal shield law, but the Senate has crafted a bill so ineffectual that it wouldn’t even protect the reporter at the center of the controversy.

Moreover, the Senate’s attempts to define journalism by place of employment miss the point entirely. Journalism isn’t a job but a service, and […] a journalist has to be defined by what they do, not where they work.

Read the full column.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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