This news pisses off lots of bloggers and citizen media advocates:
For citizen journalists, the federal shield law front was looking good for a while. Although the House of Representatives version of the bill, passed in April, only offered a shield to professional bloggers, the Senate version didn't differentiate between the pros and the amateurs. So there was hope that amateur journalists might actually, eventually, get its protection.
No longer though.
Sadly, the Senate Judiciary Committee has followed the path of the House and opted to specify that only a "salaried employee . . . or independent contractor" will be able to invoke the shield, reports the Wall Street Journal's Digits blog. The amendment, offered by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) of New York, limits the definition of a journalist to one who:
(iii) obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity—
(I) that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means; and
(aa) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;
(bb) operates a radio or television broadcast station, network, cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier;
(cc) operates a programming service; or
(dd) operates a news agency or wire service . . .
That certainly looks terrible. I'd get protection from the shield law ... maybe -- so long as a judge were to rule that Daily Kos was a "news agency". I wouldn't bet the farm on that. But any of the editors who aren't on payroll wouldn't, and neither would any of the diarists on the site, even if they were doing real journalism (and a bunch of you are). And pretty much none of your favorite bloggers would, either. Just a gilded journalistic aristocracy of "journalists" who think themselves better than you and me because they just happen to work for the NY Times or NBC News.
Problem for them, is that in today's media world, the lines are increasingly blurring. The world cares less about who gathers information, and more about the information gathered. If you do good journalism, people read and appreciate your work, and they don't need to stick their noses into your tax returns to make that determination. Technology has made everyone media, giving everyone the ability to publish. To somehow try and make a distinction between who is "real" media and who isn't is an exercise in futility, and an acknowledgement that one doesn't truly get how radically the media world has changed these last few years.
So what's up with Schumer? He's a senator who in his last book on the 2006 elections, basically gave the netroots credit for taking the Senate in 2006. From his book, Positively American: How the Democrats Can Win in 2008, page 11:
By the time dawn broke, the balance of power in the Senate came down to nine thousands votes -- seven thousand, out of more than two million cast, in Virginia and two thousand in Montana.
Four down. Two to go.
Two days later, on Thursday, November 9, George Allen and Conrad Burns, the Republican incumbents in Virginia and Montana, respectively, seeing the writing on the wall, conceded.
Six down. We had the majority! It seemed somehow appropriate that as a new majority dawned for Senate Democrats, two candidates who had been propelled by the growing "netroots" (Democratic-leaning bloggers), had made the difference in the end.
And page 112:
In some areas, we have even gain the tactical advantage. Perhaps the most important is the extensive Democratic and left-leaning "netroots". They are a new and hugely significant advantage for Democrats -- we saw the benefit they provide in 2006. They helped identify and encourage viable candidates, like Jim Webb and Jon Tester, in the early stages of their races. Their success with fundraising and field organizing contributed enormously to just about all of our victories. In many close elections, their contribution made the difference.
So Schumer isn't someone who is hostile to the netroots. Quite the contrary, he's warmly embraced it. So how to explain this amendment to the Federal Shield Law. I contacted Schumer's office, and got the following statement in response:
Senator Schumer supports a broad protection that applies to anyone who engages in the practice of journalism, including citizen journalists. He believes it is the nature of the activity that should qualify someone for the protection, regardless of whether they report for a newspaper or a blog, and regardless of whether they draw a salary or not. His bill, as originally written, reflected that view.
"In an effort to advance the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Schumer has gone along with several changes to his original bill in answer to concerns raised by the White House and his fellow Democrats on the committee. But the senator plans for the final bill to incorporate the broadest protection possible, and he will work to make sure that happens in the end.
His office wouldn't be more specific either about the White House objections (I've got a request into the White House asking for their objections), or which Democrats on the Judiciary committee have problems with citizen journalists. Here's the full list of them: Leahy (VT), Kohl (WI), Feinstein (CA), Feingold (WI), Schumer (NY), Durbin (IL), Cardin (MD), Whitehouse (RI), Klobuchar (MN), Kaufman (DE), Specter (PA), and Franken (MN).
I bet Feinstein is one of them. Also possibilities are Cardin, Klobuchar, and Specter. But that's just me guessing. The legislation appears stalled at the moment, but if it starts budging, we'll have to ramp up and put pressure on these members (and the Republicans on the committee as well, since this cuts across ideological lines).
Bottom line, according to Schumer's office, this was a procedural ploy. The real battle to define who is a journalist and who isn't is still ahead.