NYT, SPJ weigh in on shield


The Senate Judiciary Committee once again failed to act on the reporters shield bill, but representatives from the journalism community weighed in on the new Senate/White House compromise version and pronounced it worthy of passage.

The New York Times described its mechanisms when a reporter wishes to protect a source and the government subpoenas the source. In a nutshell, such disputes will go before a judge; in a civil case the burden would be tilted toward the government; and it would be tilted toward the reporter in a criminal case. The same basic principles would apply to cases involving national security matters.

NYT said that it was not a perfect bill, but concluded, “Over all, however, the bill would be a clear improvement on the status quo. The House has already passed its shield bill. The Senate should pass this compromise bill quickly, and the president should sign it into law.”

The Society of Professional Journalists also endorsed the bill in less-than-ringing terms. “As one of the largest journalism organizations in the country, and with the most potentially affected by federal shield law protection, we are not where we had hoped to be with this legislation,” said SPJ President Kevin Smith. “However, after meticulously and attentively deliberating the language of the new bill and vetting it via counsel and the SPJ Government Relations Committee in order to completely understand the impact of the legislation, SPJ is supporting this latest compromise and hopes for its quick passage from the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The White House, Congress and journalists have all found acceptable middle ground. Eventually the Senate Judiciary Committee will refer it to the Senate floor. Once that hurdle is cleared, it will have to be reconciled with the House version and sent to the White House for a presidential autograph. We expect that all these things will happen.