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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

No shield, please

Because of the Justice Department's overreach in trying to find out who was leaking stuff to The Associated Press, one of my least favorite schemes is back -- a national press shield law, which, sad to say, Gov. Mike Pence has long been an advocate of. I tend to agree with the questions raised by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin:

Instead, Durbin said he backed a “media shield law,” but was not sure if such a law would protect bloggers or “someone who is tweeting.”

[. . .]

“But here is the bottom line — the media shield law, which I am prepared to support, and I know Sen. Graham supports, still leaves an unanswered question, which I have raised many times: What is a journalist today in 2013? We know it’s someone that works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who is tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection? We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago.”

A shield law would be bad for so-called professional journalists because it would grant us special privileges at a time when the vast majority of people already distrust us. It would be bad for the country because it lets the goernment decide who is an isn't a journalist, which doesn't do much for independence of the Fourth Estate, and because it denies the reality of the First Amendment, which, like ther rest of the Bill of Rights, speaks to the rights of individuals, not institutions.