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21 August 2013

Chambliss & Isakson Should Vote No on the Feinstein Amendment Defining the Term "Journalist"

Dictionary.com provides two definitions of the term "journalist."

One definition reads, "Journalist: A person who practices the occupation or profession of journalism." The second definition says a journalist is, "a person who keeps a journal, diary, or other record of daily events."

In neither one of those meanings will you find the Dianne Feinstein (D - California) interpretation of the word "journalist."

Almost three weeks ago this Friday, Senator Feinstein introduced an amendment to a media shield bill working its way through Congress. The amendment contained a definition of the word "journalist" that should be alarming to bloggers, freelance reporters, and other independent media outlets who aren't part of huge corporate media conglomerates that control the flow of information to Americans today.

The Feinstein amendment says, "The term 'journalist' means a person who is, or on the relevant date, was, a salaried employee, independent contractor, or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information by means of newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, magazine, news website or other news service distributed digitally, news program, or other periodical, whether in print or electronic format or through television or radio broadcast, multichannel video programming distributor (as such term is defined in section 602(13) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 522(13)), or motion picture for public showing."

In other words, if Diane Feinstein gets her way, independent bloggers and other citizen journalists would not receive protections under the proposed media shield bill due to the fact that we are not paid for what we do.

Nevermind that independent bloggers have broken as many stories as the mainstream media, since we do not meet the narrow Feinstein definition of "journalist," we don't get a media shield. We don't get protected from possible retaliation for the things we write. We don't get protection for refusing to reveal our sources because we aren't what Diane Feinstein considers to be journalists.

This is disturbing on so many levels, the least of which is because it undermines free speech.

Plain and simple, government should not define who is and who is not a journalist.

The Feinstein Amendment is as wrong as wrong can be, and it is imperative that Georgia's U.S. Senators exhaust all their best efforts to defeat the Feinstein Amendment.

The future of citizen journalism in the United States depends on it.