When I was in j-school at Syracuse, one of the most interesting topics I remember learning about was the shield law. Normally, the shield law only protects journalists, not bloggers, from revealing who anonymous sources are. (Think of “All the President’s Men,” Watergate and Deep Throat). That may all change, at least for New York bloggers.
New York Sen. Thomas Duane has proposed a bill that would “protect bloggers from contempt-of-court charges for refusing to disclose confidential information or sources,” reports Editor and Publisher. The idea is if journalists are forced to reveal that information, it can have a chilling effect on free speech. A reporter might not write about a subject that should be exposed to the public because s/he is afraid of going to jail.
I wonder if the shield law, which is only in certain states, covers journalists who are blogging on their company’s site. What if it doesn’t? Does that mean a reporter could only break a story using confidential information in the Web or print edition, but not via a blog?
Let’s be honest. A lot of news is now coming from bloggers. Look at the Edwards scandal. Newspapers and other media outlets, besides the National Enquirer, didn’t want to touch that story. It was bloggers who kept on asking questions and digging into the affair. In the not so distant future, I can see bloggers replacing reporters. A shield law for bloggers would give them the same protection journalists receive. If bloggers are doing the same work as journalists, they should receive the same incentives to tell the truth and protections reporters get.