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Friday, February 18, 2005

Should Uncle Sam Define "Journalist" or "News Agency"?

Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog posted an astute analysis of the Pence-Boucher proposal for a reporter's federal shield law earlier this week. Unfortunately, I just discovered Amy's analysis this morning, thanks to being on the road all week. Click on the headline above to get to Amy's blog, then scroll down to the posting entitled: "Journalists (And Bloggers?) Shield Laws? What is a Reporter Anyway?"

Amy's essential point is that it is not a good thing to have the federal government in the business of defining who is and is not a journalist. I understand that reservation but the reality is that Uncle Sam got into that business with passage of the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of the press.

The key consideration here in my view is not defining who is a journalist but rather what is the "press." Long before the adoption of the First Amendment, people in the colonies understood that the free press included that day's newspapers and books, as well as pamphlets and circulars concerning public issues. In other words, the definition was wide and expansive.

So it should remain today. There is much in Amy's analysis that deserves additional commentary, though, so I encourage you to read and study her posting closely, then tell her (and me!) about your thoughts in response.