The House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee yesterday voted out an amended
Free Flow of Information Act.
The proposed Act would create a federal reporter's privilege, shielding journalists from being compelled to disclose their confidential sources (without a high showing of necessity). The First Amendment already protects some anonymity and confidentiality in the name of a free press, and
almost every state has some form of reporter shield law
, but this would be the only federal statute to do the same.
In all debates about the scope of reporters' shield laws, lately, the question becomes: who's a journalist? What separates a Washington Post reporter from CNN's website editor from a flickr user who photographs a newsworthy event from a wikipedia editor who updates an article minutes after a calamity occurs?
The Free Flow of Information Act says: dollar signs. If you make money from what you're reporting, you count. The Act defines journalism as “gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.” But it's careful not to extend the privilege to just anybody: otherwise anyone could avoid being forced to turn over information merely by creating a free blog. But really, is it that much harder to slap a Google Blog Ad on your free blog?
The bill will go through more discussion and compromise before it even hits the House floor for a vote, so stay tuned .
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Sister72 .