September 16, 2013
MORE ON THAT MEDIA SHIELD LAW, COURTESY OF CHARLES GLASSER:
Some blogs and new reports have erroneously stated that the FFIA would only cover “credentialed” or salaried journalists who work for mainstream media. The legislation, in fact, provides strong protection for new-media journalists, including bloggers.
The FFIA covers individuals who gather news and information for the public, regardless of their medium. The protection applies equally to new media, such as blogs, web sites, and news apps, and traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters. The bill states that it covers journalists who distribute news “in print, electronic, or other format,” and it explicitly mentions websites and mobile apps.
Similarly, the bill’s protections are not limited to people who produce journalism for financial gain. Indeed, the FFIA does not contain any requirements regarding compensation. The bill covers a wide range of bloggers, student journalists, and others, as long as their primary intent is to gather news and information for the public.
The bill also provides a “safety valve” that gives a federal judge broad discretion to cover individuals who do not fit into any of the categories listed in the bill. This provision allows the judge to grant shield law protection to an individual who does not fit into one of the many listed categories if coverage would be in “the interest of justice and necessary to protect lawful and legitimate news-gathering activities under the specific circumstances of the case.” Although the vast majority of people who gather news would fit into the listed categories, this safety valve ensures that the bill is inclusive and covers unanticipated situations.
I remain opposed to shield laws in general, but if true this makes the bill somewhat less bad than earlier thought.