Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shielding Reporters...

In recent months, reporters have been assiduously pushing the idea of a so-called federal shield law, which would essentially allow them to pick and choose what to reveal about their sources. In my opinion, this would essentially place them above the law (which to my mind the First Amendment was never intended to do) in answering questions about their sources. Reporters and media organizations have claimed that such a law is necessary for them to report on controversial issues.

However, there may be another reason. As the trial of Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is showing, despite the job requirement of factually and accurately reporting on what their sources tell them, reporters are not very good at either taking notes or remembering exactly who told them what. And as the sad case of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's coverage (or lack thereof) regarding Keith Ellison's ties to Muslim extremist groups showed, reporters often do not do a very good job of honestly reporting in any event- especially when they have a stake in the outcome of said reporting.

In my opinion, a federal shield law for journalists would be a very unwise move. Reporters are not and should not be above the law- and when a court of law orders them to disclose their sources, they should not have the option to refuse. Reporters already have far too much power in our society- they can destroy lives with impunity, and can write unfair and near-treasonous articles already without fear of retaliation. A shield law would place them in a position of far too much power.

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