August 2, 2013


U.S. Senators “couldn’t agree on the definition of ‘journalist’” during a hearing on a proposed shield law Thursday, Kate Irby reports. That could muddle the prospects of such legislation.

The bill defines a journalist as a person who has a “primary intent to investigate events and procure material” in order to inform the public by regularly gathering information through interviews and observations. The person also must intend to report on the news at the start of obtaining any protected information and must plan to publish that news.

But senators disagreed on how to define journalists, since some thought the bill’s definition wasn’t specific enough.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said such a law should apply only to “real reporters.”

“We’re very careful in this bill to distinguish journalists from those who shouldn’t be protected, WikiLeaks and all those, and we’ve ensured that,” Irby reports Sen. Chuck Schumer said. “But there are people who write and do real journalism, in different ways than we’re used to. They should not be excluded from this bill.”

In 2009, Jack Shafer wrote that shield laws reserve “the highest wattage of the First Amendment…only to the guild that makes up the media industry. The amendment really belongs to anybody who decides to express themselves.”

Correction: The McClatchy piece this post aggregates originally attributed some of Feinstein’s remarks to Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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