Sunday, March 1, 2009

Are bloggers journalists? U.S.Congress think not...


Forget the First Amendment...

Two versions of a bill in Congress would enshrine a journalist's right to keep his or her sources confidential, effectively banning the government from forcing journalists to reveal whistleblowers. One version though--the House version--gives an incredibly stupid definition of journalist that excludes not only bloggers, but freelancers, independents, and nonprofit journalists as well.

For the most part, the Senate and House agree on what a journalist's duties are and what journalism entails:

"the regular gathering, preparing, collecting, photography, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public."

But only the House version, which has more cosponsors than brains apparently, adds to that definition:

"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."

So, in effect, if journalism is a hobby or passion you do as a public service, or if you are a freelancer without a boss--both of which easily describe a blogger--then the government reserves the right to force you to tell them who told you something, much like the government tried to do with New York Times journalist Judy Miller under the Bush Administration.

Apparently our "representatives" have a real problem with citizen journalism done for the sake of journalism and for the good of democracy, and believe protecting the "free flow of information" is only reserved for officially approved press. No bloggers, no patriotic radicals, no underground agitator pamphleteers like the ones who actually founded and fought for this country to begin with.

Hate to (once again) school our freaking government about the freaking Constitution they freaking pledge to uphold, but this is Congress making a law abridging the freedom of the press, a violation of the First Amendment. I might be more sympathetic if they missed one further down the list, BUT IT'S THE FIRST FREAKING ONE.

By defining who is and who is not considered press, and therefore deciding who is entitled to special protection--in this case, especially, where they base it on who does it for money and who does it for passion (hint: the latter one is more likely to dig up something that matters)--the House of Representatives are doing Americans a huge disservice if they don't change that language.

By Jason Lee Miller

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