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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Senate Bill Says Bloggers Are Journalists

Mr. Gebhart points to good news for bloggers: in a reversal of an earlier amendment, Senators Schumer and Specter have announced that new federal shield legislation for journalists will include a broad definition of journalism. Short form: if you are engaged in the following activity, the feds have to make a pretty strong case to force you to reveal confidential sources.

(5) JOURNALISM- The term ‘journalism’ means the regular 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 [S. 448, Free Flow of Information Act, Section 8, Clause 5, as published on OpenCongress.org, 2009.11.01].

Gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, publishing... yeah, we bloggers do all that.

Over four years of blogging, my own understanding of what blogging is and isn't has changed significantly. I once thought, as Mr. Epp did, that we needed to keep some daylight between blogger and journalist. But interacting with other citizen journalists, thinking about Paul Harvey, and banging out articles at a rate of over a thousand a year (this is #2982 on the Madville Times) has made me comfortable with accepting the label journalist. The United States Senate appears to be moving in that same direction.

p.s.: Mr. Gebhart does the best epigraphs. Here's the quote with which he punctuates his post on S.448:

And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing — writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.

—Simon Dumenco, “A Blogger is Just a Writer with
a Cooler Name” [discussed at WordMunger]

Update 2009.11.03 09:21 CST: Mr. Gebhart forwards to me an article from the Citizens Media Law Project, which gets the new language defining who's covered under the amended Senate bill. They "applaud this renewed focus on the function carried out by the individual in question, rather than occupational status." CMLP links to Zachary M. Seward at the Nieman Journalism Lab, who points out that the House version still shields only reporters who produce journalism "for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain."


  1. Does that mean you, Sibby, and all the other bloggers will now be following the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics?


  2. The legislation makes sense. After all, bloggers are like editorial writers in many ways because they are expressing opinion, revealing information and passing on news of sorts. Many don't have journalism degrees or a pedigree of hard story writing, but they are writing and sharing.

    While your blog is legitimate and researched (although somewhat tainted at times due to your infusion of liberal Democratic atheistic leanings), it allows the public to view a variety of opinions...Sort of like the internet coffee shop. Your blog may very well be the Starbucks of Madison.

    In a smaller community where media outlets fear rocking the boat, your blog and many others are an opinion outlet. Not everything we read in a blog is true, but as we learned, even CBS's Dan Rather fudged once in awhile.

    Recognition well deserved.

  3. give voice to the voiceless... avoid conflicts of interest... distinguish news from advertising... admit mistakes and correct them promptly... I would suggest citizen journalists are already beating the corporate journalists on a number of those counts.

  4. By the way, thanks, Rod! Blog as "third place"—that's an interesting idea! I wonder what my friend Mike Knutson would think of that....

    And I like to think liberal Democratic atheist leanings have as much place in public discourse as ad-biased, Chamber-booster, evangelical leanings. ;-)

  5. I certainly appreciate hearing your opinions because I know they are well researched, and once in awhile I agree with you, but I also hold out hope that your wife and others around you will continue to influence you, to bring you back from the dark side, so to speak. ;^)


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