Congress’s job now includes defining Journalism?

Posted by Susan Nourse

Members of Senate panels are refining the details of the Media Shield Act before the bill goes on the full Senate. The Act offers protection for Journalists, so they won’t have to reveal their confidential sources.  Those refining details include defining who is a journalist and who isn’t.

Members of Congress. From White House Photographer.

Members of Congress. From White House Photographer.

Who is considered a journalist 

  • Journalists who have been employed for one year within the past 20
  • Journalists employed for three months within the past 5 years
  • Freelance journalists with a “substantial track record”
  • Student journalists

Who isn’t considered a journalist 

  • Groups not considered news outlets by the Senate (i.e WikiLeaks)
  • Bloggers

Journalists have often faced prison time when choosing not to reveal their confidential sources, being named co-conspirators.This bill could be  great step in moving to protect journalists from the Justice Department violating the freedom of the press, but is defining what a journalist is a step in the wrong direction?

The bill doesn’t offer absolute protection. A journalist must reveal the sources if it is a matter of national security.

The bill won’t provide protection for regular American citizens, or any media outlet that is not considered news by the government. Congress could be giving more protection to news outlets that it deems are worthy. Doesn’t the freedom of the press apply to all American citizens?

Does the good this act provide out way the bad? Should protection be provided for everyone or reserved for those who write news stories at “credible” media outlets?

Links to articles

Washington Post; Huffington Post



4 responses to “Congress’s job now includes defining Journalism?

  1. I think this is a terrible idea, and it treads on dangerous territory.

    I’m particularly alarmed that bloggers aren’t immune from prosecution. A lot of people without journalism degrees, or even people with journalism backgrounds who decide to report on their own instead, could get into a lot of trouble for sharing valuable information.

    I don’t think the government should get into the fine details of who is a credible media outlet and who isn’t. That just sounds shady.

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  4. I just feel like that refining the law would make it too specific. There should be some wiggle room when it comes to refining laws. Opinions will change and journalism will too.
    Also, I don’t think the good will outweigh the bad. What if the information from a confidential source is life or death or something similar to that? People will get upset at the person who tells them the information is from a confidential source, and it may cause a riot. I just think it is asking for trouble.

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