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Monday, April 04, 2005

Chron plugs special 'journalist' protections

A while back, the dinosaurs over at the Chronicle were throwing their considerable weight behind a badly written House bill that would give journalists special immunity from testifying. At the time, the Chron's editors wrote that the law should define journalism:
The bill would not create a special class of persons. Journalism is an activity open to anyone with a copier or Web site. The bill stipulates only that the journalism must be disseminated, drawing the distinction between reporters and commentators, and diarists and people who merely agree to keep a secret.
As the lovely and talented Anne Linehan points out, the bill made no such distinction at all. And now the Texas Senate is coming out with its own version, complete with much of the same text:
(1) "Journalist" means a person, or an employee, independent contractor, or agent of that person, engaged in the business of gathering, compiling, writing, editing, photographing, recording, or processing information for dissemination by any news medium. (2) "News medium" means a person who in the ordinary course of business publishes, broadcasts, or otherwise disseminates news by print, television, radio, or other electronic means accessible to the public.
Anyone see a "distinction between reporters and commentators" there? Yeah, me neither. Despite the Chron's objections, this bill isn't about an independent media watchdog keeping a close eye on government for the benefit of The Republic. This is about granting special immunity to journalists. "Professional" journalists should receive the same protection as any other citizen: Amendment Numero Uno. The entire point of that amendment is to prevent regulation of the press, not to create a class of protected "journalists."

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