‘Compromise’ shield law weaker than DOJ rules

The New York Times is throwing its weight behind a “compromise” federal shield law whose protections are described by by Times reporter Adam Liptak as:

“weaker than those in almost all of the 49 states that shield journalists from state actions through statutes and judicial decisions. They are also weaker than the protections in the Justice Department’s own guidelines for issuing subpoenas to journalists.”

The bill is cosponsored by Sen Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA. “This bill can pass,” Schumer tells the Times which — according to the article — supports the new bill along with “scores of news organizations.”

I am not supportive of a federal shield law. I think mass media performed shamefully in the lead up to the Iraq War. The national press corps was complicit in misleading the nation into war by repeatedly reporting the lies told them by “persons speaking under condition of anonymity.” 

I would guess a majority of professional journalists want a federal shield law. When Congress was considering stronger proposals were earlier in the year I argued against those laws, and more than once said that professional journalists deserve no protection not afforded any other American.

But if mass media are content with this legal fig leaf why bother arguing. The bill’s protections are as pathetic as the press’s pre-war performance. Perhaps that’s the justice in all this.