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

Awful idea of the day

Sorry, Gov. Pence, but your strong and misguided support for a national shield law took us down the road on which an Alabama state senator thinks he has the right and ability to decide who a "legitimate" journalist is:

Freedom of the press is essential. Freedom of the press is important to me. Freedom of the press is not going anywhere in Alabama.

With the national explosion of partisan political blogs and shady, fly-by-night websites offering purposely skewed and inaccurate interpretations of hard news events, I recently asked the Secretary of the Senate to put together a definition of what qualifies as a legitimate journalist.

[. . .]

Just as elected officials are accountable to the people they represent, so, too, are journalists accountable to an editor.

While a free and open press is vital and necessary, there are some who are attempting to hijack the profession by promoting raw political agendas from the confines of the press gallery. This is not freedom of the press, it is deceitful and wrong.

I acknowledge that in today’s rapidly changing media world, it is more complicated to determine who should and should not be considered a legitimate journalist.

To that end, I have asked the Alabama Press Association to assist the Senate staff in determining a proper definition of what constitutes a journalist meriting access to the press room.

There are some people trying to "hijack" the "profession" of journalism by promoting a "raw political agenda"? Good Lord, Senator, don't you know your history or your Constitution? From the beginnings of this country, journalism has been about politics. Our first newspapers were basically shipping news and hysterical partisan screeds. The whole point of publishing was to advance an agenda. And, please. The First Amendment is not the exclusive property of a professional press. It contains rights enjoyed by all Ameircans.

Like it or not, all of us are :legitimate journalists." That has always been true. It's just more obvious now that it has become so easily and cheap for everyone to participate.

Finally, one of the chief functions of the press is to be a watchdog of the government. That misssion will be impossible if the government gets to decide who is legitimately the press and who is not. Somehow, I don't think that point is lost on some od the people pushing a national shield law. And some of the people in the press who should know better don't seem to grasp it.