Shield stalls in the Senate


The Bush administration and some Hill Republicans are opposed to the federal reporter’s shield, which nevertheless enjoys widespread bipartisan support and sponsorship in both houses of Congress. But in maneuvering over an unrelated energy bill, Senate Republicans blocked the measure by voting down a cloture motion (the modern method of filibustering).

The shield exists to allow reporters to protect anonymous sources who have legitimate fear of reprisal if their name was linked to a particular story. Although ethically journalists should strive to make sparing use of anonymous sources, the protection is considered necessary for the press to execute its watchdog role over government activity. The Bush administration, however, feels it may hamper their efforts to thwart terrorists.

“We are very disappointed that the bill stalled today,” said Clint Brewer of the Society of Professional Journalists. “SPJ will continue to encourage its members and public citizens to contact members of Congress and express part of the Society’s mission: to encourage a climate where journalism can be practiced freely. A federal shield law would be a major step toward that goal.”

RBR/TVBR observation: This is not an unpopular measure, and it could be one of those bills that springs back to life via a legislative maneuver, just as it was stalled by one yesterday. And we’d guess it has a very good chance of making it through the 111th Congress, with a receptive chief executive ready to sign it, no matter who wins.