Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently tripped over his words in a discussion about bloggers, journalists and who would “deserve First Amendment protection.”
National Journal reported Graham’s remarks:
"Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves," he said. "Is any blogger out there saying anything—do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times."
For starters, the homeless guy on the street enjoys First Amendment protection, not because he deserves it, but because it is a God-given right just like all the other rights Americans have.
Politicians and media workers have long debated the labels “journalist” and “blogger.” These days, with self-publication at everyone’s fingertips, who exactly is a journalist?
Do we reserve protections like a shield law only for workers at major media outlets? Shouldn’t a blogger qualify for such protection?
The question shouldn’t be asked; the answer is a given for anyone who understands technology.
If you provide content on the Web, in print or in any other medium, you are engaging in activity as a journalist, blogger, scribe, pundit or whatever you choose to call yourself.
However, as a working member of media, I can tell you the lines are blurred and at times, I’ve declined to publish material from a whistleblower at my own site because of possible legal implications.
Once I decided to specialize in politics, I learned early on how treacherous the waters can be if you decide to go indie. I viewed my professional memberships as somewhat of a standard and resource simply because you must qualify for membership based on what you have published in outlets acceptable to the organizations.
The revenue model for indie publishing is, of course, a disaster. At times, when I weigh the costs, labor and potential liability for what I do, I feel like running. Then I’ll see a story sparked by something I wrote, or I’ll get a letter from a reader thanking me. Or I’ll see another intrusion on individual liberties and I find myself running towards what I wanted to run from.
Graham’s remarks didn’t surprise me, but I’d like him to rethink his model. If indie bloggers weren’t involved in politics, it’s likely the left would have a chokehold on the nation’s messaging.
We presently have a president whose Department of Justice targeted a respected reporter at a national network for potential criminal prosecution. Imagine the damper that puts on indie bloggers’ aspirations—sort of like a noose around the neck of the First Amendment. After all, we can't afford to keep teams of lawyers on retainer.
Perhaps when he really thinks about it, Graham will come to see the First Amendment applies to all Americans regardless of their profession, and maybe he’ll see the need for a shield law for bloggers as well. We can hope because that is one issue Republicans should lead from the front on.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/June 5, 2013)
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