A shield law that wouldn’t haveÂ protected Judith Miller or Josh WolfÂ
New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent nearly three months in jail in 2005 before she finally revealed her anonymous source to a federal grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame affair.
Political activist and freelancer journalist Josh Wolf spent 226 days in prison for refusing to give federal prosecutors unaired video of a 2006 demonstration where a
The law requires disclosure of an anonymous source â€œto identify a person who has disclosed a trade secret.â€ Some shield law!Â It has less legal clout that the formula for Coke.
In fact nearly every word in this act spells out the circumstances in which journalists can be subpoenaed. If truth-in-labeling applied to legislation, Congress would have had to title this turkey the How to Subpoena a Journalist Act. It turns out thatÂ the legislative process provide its own reality check. Every lawÂ mustÂ boil itsÂ purpose down to a sentence.Â The stated purpose of this act is:
â€œTo maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.â€
Those old enough to remember
Fortunately once they do read the Free Flow of Information Act, they realize its deficiencies.Â In aÂ recent blog posting, Poynter Institute commentatorÂ Amy Gahran lamented the exclusion of bloggers and citizen journalists:
â€œJournalism is a practice . . . itâ€™s about committing acts of journalism, not about getting a degree, being employed, or even getting paid. I think a federal shield law with such exclusive language would only serve to diminish the practice and independence of journalism, especially among people who are sticking their necks out entirely on their own to do it . . . I never thought I’d say this, but if this bill does make it to Bush’s desk with that particular language intact, I hope he does veto it.â€