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A Far More Serious Threat

Posted on October 12, 2005 in Blogging Journalists & Pundits

square132Bloggers have long hungered for credibility. More than a few went down to Louisiana to witness the ineptness of FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, for example. Others reported on their own experiences with the disaster.

Lindsay Beyerstein is worried about a new “shield law” that will probably deny bloggers such as herself the right to be considered “journalists”. She calls it progress to hear that bloggers will “probably not” be covered under the bill sponsored by Senator Lugar (better than a definite “no” I suppose). But her quotation from the Editor & Publisher article omits a far more serious issue that both bloggers and journalists should face:

A key reason some journalists oppose the popular federal shield proposal is fear that giving Congress the power to define who is and isn’t a journalist could lead effectively to the licensing of journalists.

In fairness to Lindsay, this is the only mention in the article of this concern, but it bears more thought. Lindsay wants to be covered under this law. The problem as I see it is that we shouldn’t have the law at all.

I oppose any “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” legislation. Lugar wrote this legislation to protect future Judy Miller’s. I think there is already plenty of adequate protection for honest journalists. We don’t need a Saint Judy Law.

Bloggers need to stop comparing themselves to journalists. We have a unique medium which allows us to be ourselves, to write about whatever we want to write about. I commend Lindsay’s efforts to go to the spot where the news is happening and tell the story from the perspective of the average American. (I did something similar in 1992 when I traveled to former Yugoslavia.) Blindly supporting this law just because she wants to have the same respect as a journalist, on the other hand, is setting our democracy up for a situation like they had in Mexico for many years where the government gave lip service to freedom of speech but held a monopoly on newsprint. We cannot allow government intervention into who and who isn’t a reporter. Let that matter be decided by common sense and practice. In our quest for respect, let us not feed into attempts to control the press that are really nothing more than covers for illegal activity.

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