Feb 17, 2007

reporters may get shield; bloggers stick with dagger

Unanimously, the House has passed a bill to provide journalists the same confidentiality allowed only to spouses, lawyers, clergyfolks, and police. There is a crucial exception, though:
Washington’s proposed law would provide a more limited privilege on materials such as unpublished notes and tapes. Under its provisions, the media could be forced to disclose that information under certain circumstances, including when a judge finds it is necessary in a criminal or civil case and the material cannot be obtained elsewhere.
The bill would have to mesh with the version still stuck in the Senate, and then merit Governor Gregoire's signature, before passing. Not a sure thing, but closer than ever:
The measure overwhelmingly passed the House last year on a bipartisan 87-11 vote only to get stopped in the Senate, where it was never brought up for a floor vote. It had a public hearing in the Senate last month, was passed out of committee last week, and supporters there were more confident of its chances this year.
The law would apply only to professional journalists.
The bill defines a member of the media as anyone who earns a substantial portion of his or her income from publishing or broadcasting. Generally, authors of occasional opinion pieces or Internet bloggers would not be covered.
Someday, blogging friends. Someday.


fake consultant said...

when i read section 1 (5)(a) and (i) i see this:

"the term news media means...any person or entity that is in the regular

business of disseminating news or information to the public by any means,


(p 3 of 4)

perhaps i'm an inexperienced reader, but isn't that a blogger shield?

Jim Anderson said...

Hmm... I was in a hurry and trusted the press reports. In retrospect, that was a poor choice. It certainly appears that bloggers could be covered under that first provision. I suppose it all depends on what "in the business" means... whether legally that requires an actual financial investment or remuneration from the activity, or if it's a broader term.

Good call, fc. I'm going to look into it and report back soon.

Jim Anderson said...

The bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee where the chair has sponsored a similar bill [pdf]. The crucial difference: instead of any "person or entity in the regular business," the modified Senate version says any "entity," in the following section defines a media member as an "employee, agent, or independent contractor" of such an entity. The exclusion of the key word "person" strikes me as an exclusion of bloggers.