We Don’t Need Media Shield Laws

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The debate over just how to put together a media shield law illustrates why we don’t need them, and in fact the danger within. It isn’t the job of Congress to determine who, exactly is a journalist.

Already the definitions being offered in the Senate should send up huge warning sounds. Paid, unpaid, size of publication, etc., these are all the sorts of things that should never be enshrined in law.

But the real issue here is that this isn’t 1970, when the distinction between Joe Journalist and Joe Normalcitizen was clear. It sounds like techno-utopian thought, but we really are all journalists. Anyone with any sort of internet access, from email to a Twitter or Facebook account to a blog/website, has the capacity to publish material to a large audience.

In that case, giving a journalist a special right/privilege like the ability to avoid prosecution or being forced to give up a source is either discriminatory because it gives some citizens rights not available to all of us, or useless because the distinction between who is a journalist is nonexistent.

I understand the thinking behind pushing these laws, but before they are even written they’re outmoded and archaic in the 21st century.