I'm ambivalent about a federal journalism shield law. There are legitimate journalistic efforts that should be protected, then there's Judith Miller. But if you're going to pass such a law, it's good to see that the definition of "journalist" has been expanded beyond those working for the corporate media.
The House has just passed the Free Flow of Information Act, also known as the federal shield law. The bill passed by a vote of 398-21, a margin that would easily override the veto which the White House has promised (pdf). The bill provides journalists with a qualified privilege as to sources and information, while at the same time, recognizing the need for effective law enforcement and robust national security. A blogger who regularly engages in journalistic activities – such as gathering and publishing news and information for dissemination to the public – and does so for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain would be covered by the shield as a journalist.
I'm not sure the ability to make "substantial financial gain" from a bloging efforts should dictate whether bloggers get these protections or not. This essentially means I'm protected, but diarists on the site are not. nor are the Firedoglake people (even though they had the best journalism out of the Libby trial), nor the AmericaBlog folks, nor many, many other bloggers. And what about citizen (volunteer) media? They're out of luck as well.
Recognizing that bloggers are worthy of these protections is a positive step forward as government struggles to make sense of the shifting media landscape. Now, this legislation needs to be tweaked in the Senate to strip out the condition that protected bloggers be raking in the cash. It's nonsensical and doesn't appear designed to eliminate legitimate bloggers, or to gain votes as compromise language, but as a clumsy attempt to prevent people from availing themselves of these shield protections by merely throwing up a quick fake blog.
That's a legitimate concern, and one that could be dealt with by changing "substantial financial gain" to something along the lines of "substantial publishing history". Or by giving authors protection only from suits arising from legitimate published materials.
There's unfortunately only a handful of us bloggers that make substantial revenue from our efforts. We shouldn't be treated any differently than the myriad others who are doing just as valuable work.