Reporters shield deal may lead to vote


A new and improved federal reporters shield has been cobbled together – one that meets with the approval of journalists, senators and the White House. The result may at long last be a vote on the measure, which has made its eighth appearance on the Senate Judiciary markup schedule.

The Freedom of Information Act is on the agenda once again for the 11/5/09 business meeting, where it shares the schedule with six other bills and a pair of nominations.

According to sponsors Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the new bill compels the government to demonstrate that information held by a reporter is “essential” before it can override the shield; preserves a public interest balancing test for criminal and civil cases; it permits freelance authors to be covered, and it also provides the potential for journalists publishing on blogs to be covered as well.

“The negotiated compromise creates a fair standard to protect the public interest, journalists, the news media, bloggers, prosecutors and litigants,” said Specter. “White House negotiators for President Obama played a decisive role in working out this compromise. The news media kept up the pressure for years to produce this compromise for a major improvement over current procedures where journalists have been threatened, fined and jailed for appropriately protecting sources.”

In addition to Specter and Schumer, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are on the bipartisan co-sponsor list.

RBR-TVBR observation: We are relieved. We always thought this bill was a mortal lock for passage once its fierce opponent President George W. Bush left office – then it ran into surprising WH resistance this Fall.

And the new improved version even makes room for bloggers. That’s good news for RBR-TVBR, because although we rarely report on matters of national security, and for us a life-or-death story generally involves something like Chapter 7, since we have made the prudent decision to put paper, ink and stamps in our past, we might not have qualified for protection, should we ever need to protect the identity of you, our loyal readers who may one day have an important anonymous tip to share!