Feinstein looks to exclude bloggers, new media from press shield law

What's the definition of a "journalist"? Senator Diane Feinstein thinks you're not a "real" journalist unless you get paid for it.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein has proposed an amendment to the Media Shield Law - an irrelevant law ignoring protection already afforded by the First Amendment - that would limit the law's protection only to "real reporters," not bloggers and other upstart alternative media types.

A real reporter, declared Madame Feinstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, is "a salaried agent" of a media company like the New York Times or ABC News, not a shoestring operation with volunteers and writers who are not paid.

Feinstein voiced her concern "that the current version of the bill would grant a special privilege to people who aren't really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications," like bloggers and citizen journalists.

Last week, Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, worried the Shield Law, if passed, would be used to protect whistleblowers and others who ferret out government corruption.

"The world has changed. We're very careful in this bill to distinguish journalists from those who shouldn't be protected, WikiLeaks and all those, and we've ensured that," Schumer said. "But there are people who write and do real journalism, in different ways than we're used to. They should not be excluded from this bill."

The bill moving through Congress would require the Justice Department to notify reporters it decides to monitor. The law would allow Justice Department officials to delay notice for a period of 45 days. In addition, it would permit the DOJ to ask for an extension of 45 days.

"Professional qualifications"? You mean, they didn't go to journalism school? Perish the thought.

Feinstein and Schumer's authoritarian idea of who's a journalist and who isn't may make it into the final version of the bill. And that stinks. The truth is, both sides want to end the influence of bloggers and new media writers because they can't be controlled. Used to be that a Kennedy or some other politician could call a newspaper editor and get a negative story killed or rewritten. No longer. Bloggers are not beholden to anyone, and are mostly immune from that kind of pressure.

Perhaps we should narrow the definition of a legislator?

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