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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Law - "Who’s a Journalist? A Question With Many Facets and One Sure Answer"

Margaret Sullivan, discusses the question in her column, the "Public Editor's Journal". Some quotes:

But this raises a question that is very much of the current moment. Who – and what – is a journalist? It’s not just about semantics.

There is a strong legal component to this discussion: Who will be covered by a federal shield law that would give legal protection to journalists who have promised confidentiality to their sources, if it ever comes to pass? Will it cover only established news organizations or those who get paid for news gathering? Or does it cover everyone with a Facebook page?

The question takes on added heat in the context of the Obama administration’s prosecution of leakers using the Espionage Act, its pursuit of Mr. Assange, and the recent naming of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, as a co-conspirator in a leak case.

Then, quite separately, there’s a question of the amount of professional respect shown to those like Ms. O’Brien and the columnist Glenn Greenwald, who has broken major news stories about government surveillance for The Guardian in recent weeks.

Is Mr. Greenwald a “blogger,” as a Times headline referred to him recently? That headline was atop a profile that did not use the word journalist to describe the columnist for The Guardian United States, the New York-based Web site associated with the British newspaper. At the time, I wrote (on Twitter) that I found the headline dismissive. There’s nothing wrong with being a blogger, of course – I am one myself. But when the media establishment uses the term, it somehow seems to say, “You’re not quite one of us.” (And that might be just fine with Mr. Greenwald, who has written disparagingly of some media people, whom he calls “courtiers of power.”) * * *

So, who’s a journalist? I could explore the legislative and legal questions, and that may be something worth returning to in this space. (Decisions that have been made in interpreting New Jersey’s strong shield law are of particular interest, as is the language before the Senate now on the proposed federal law.)

But for now, I’ll offer this admittedly partial definition: A real journalist is one who understands, at a cellular level, and doesn’t shy away from, the adversarial relationship between government and press – the very tension that America’s founders had in mind with the First Amendment.

Those who fully meet that description deserve to be respected and protected — not marginalized.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 30, 2013 06:44 PM
Posted to General Law Related