The Gross National Debt

Monday, September 16, 2013

Journanjulism or I Be A Writer

Contains a profanity.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
So a shield bill is in the offing. For those who don't know, a shield bill (or if passed, law), gives journalists protection the same protection often afforded to clergy, parasites of the human condition (lawyers) and those in the medical fields.

Just as clergy et call cannot be forced to testify what they were told in confidence, a shield law means journalists won't have to give up sources for the stories they write. Such sources are typically anonymous.

Lemme be clear. The public use of anonymous sources in news stories is one step above being a government-run propaganda machine. I have not, will not and do not believe that anonymous sources are the only source of information for journalists.

I do believe the use of anonymous sources in published stories is journalism shorthand for "I'm making this shit up and you have no idea if what I'm telling you is true or not."

I do have anonymous sources. They tip me to stories and then I look into the stories. I get on-the-record comments and public record reports. That's what you see in my stories. You do not seen "anonymous sources" or "someone close to the situation" as an attribution.

For the sake of this column, say I use and quote "anonymous" sources. I'm hauled into court, as has happened in the past. Do I have a right to keep these anonymous sources private or should I hand 'em over to the government?

Lotsa people will say yes. Others will say no. At the federal level, this is quite vague. Some states do have shield laws, believing the right of the people to be informed trumps the right of government to know where that info comes from.

Complicate this. I interview drug dealers. I write about what they do. I witness deals go down, I document this. Should I have to turn over my unpublished notes and photographs so law enforcement can make a case? OK, what if it's a rape? Murder? Embezzlement? Child abuse? Vandalism? (Except that if I witness child abuse, I'm gonna abandon journalistic objectivity and whip someone).

Is the public right to know about this "underworld" kind of thing more valuable than possibly making an arrest? Add to this that if journalists are forced to hand over their notes & pix, journalistic access to these worlds will almost immediately end.

Let's complicate this more. What defines a journalist? Even people who hate me will say I'm definitely a journalist. All of my income comes from running a newspaper and the writing I do. All.

Is some who just blogs a journalist? I think not. They are an entertainer. Is someone who collates information, like the Drudge Report, a journalist? Harder to answer. How much of your has to meet a journalist standard? How much of your income?

Complicate this even more. Journalists are the only group of people in a private industry singled out by the US Constitution for protection. How far should that protection go?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

For more on this, have a look at what Rebel has to say.

1 comment:

  1. Once again I think your musings are better than mine, but I appreciate the nod.

    ReplyDelete