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I've tried calling your San Francisco and DC offices, but apparently i'm not the only one trying to get in touch with you today.

I am writing to inform you that I oppose your amendment to limit protection for journalists to those individuals who are paid by or contracted to a media firm. I am shocked that you consider fiscal compensation the demarcation for socially worthy reporting that should be protected. Consider the media fixation with balloon boys or White House party crashers and tell me that it's the paycheck that makes that journalism.

To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, "I can't define [journalism], but I know it when I see it." Your amendment should be withdrawn in favor of the original definition which included all citizens doing actual journalism. Let the courts decide whether a particular journalist deserves protection in the interest of the greater social good and not GE, Rupert Murdoch, or even the Sulzberger family.

Your amendment ignores the new reality of journalism. Advances in technology have taken the means of news production out of the hands of the media elite and given the common, local citizen a voice. In this new era, the individual is off the couch and empowered to explore, create, and tell. And at the crest of this monumental social change, you and Senator Durbin are joining to de-legitimize this behavior and cast adrift the citizens who need the most protection because (by your definition) they don't have access to a full-time legal staff.

So I ask you and expect a response, if you believe that journalism is a social good that should be protected, how can you consider payment, which is at best irrelevant to the value of the final product and at worst a corrupter of that product, the defining factor in determining whom to protect?

I await your response.


Richard Cleland

Originally posted to GreatAuk on Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 12:09 PM PST.

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