California Senator Diane Feinstein wants to define what a journalist is. This stems from trying to determine who gets shield law privileges. A shield law protects journalists from having to turn over notes, unpublished photos,unaired video to authorities. It also allows the journalist to protect their sources. This came about because of Bradley Manning, Eric Snowden and other whistle blowers.
As little as 25years ago Being a journalist was an honorable trade. You owned a media outlet or worked for one. If your work was not good enough, you simply were not published. End of story. There were checks and balances. Quality control and ethics were paramount.
Now with the internet, it begs to question just who is a journalist? The government wants to define that for you. in one hand it's good. In another,not so good. Just because you entered a public event for a movie being filmed and are part of the crowd scene, does not qualify you to be an actor. Nor should you call yourself one. Just cause you filmed and incident and were stupid enough to share it with the local tv or newspaper for free does not make you a journalist. Far from it.
Many municipalities make the foolish decision to abandon giving press credentials to the media. That means it's a free for all and a huge security risk. Any convicted child molester, thief or drug dealer can parade around with home made credentials. So lets get back to this.
Jason is walking when he sees an incident. He whips out his cellphone and takes 2 minutes of video, He's documenting this in the hopes of getting recognition on Facebook or other social networking site. He send it away for free. Stupid Jason could have made a second career but nope , he gives it way for free. The footage is also unusable and would never pass muster 25 years ago. However, his name is out there. The next week he is arrested for molesting a kid. Now the media outlet he deals with has egg on their face as they try to distance themselves from him.
He called himself a journalist. Let,s take Tom, walking around with his small camera getting in the way of everyone. He is not even a freelancer and this time he disrupts the crime scene by moving things, and contaminating it. Is he a journalist, or someone with a camera?
A teenager with a blog is another sticky point. Recently, a judge said that the Drudgereport. is not a newspaper and Matt Drudge is not a journalist. Drudge takes headlines and provides links. They also run photos and at times run original small snippets or original content. The judge was wrong. Many people think so. So the teenager who writes about the high school football team and his crush on the head cheerleader is not news. But when he writes about Mr.Kimball coming to teach class drunk, and he breaks the story, is it journalism? What if he publishes about cheating on tests?
The senate is looking to protect freelancers who have a track record for providing for news for an audience. Fine. It excludes whistle blowers like Snowden. but here is the catch. Take Tom, who works for NASA. He is disgruntled and wants to leak papers showing aliens landed on earth . If he publishes his own blog he is not protected. However, if he gives the info to the New York Times, they, in theory could protect him. So could this reporter, or any other that has work regularly published.
The idea of the government approving publications is wrong and scary. If Joe's news does not need the criteria for shield law protection due to the fact that it is an upstart internet publication, what difference does it make if he publishes a few hundred copies and leaves them at supermarkets for free?
Anyone can gather news or attempt to gather news. This new definition will protect student journalists and freelancers. It will not protect bloggers ,and people that occasionally give their work away for a credit.