The Washington State reporter shield law that Rob McKenna supported was written in a way that excluded us dirty fucking hippie bloggers. As Goldy explained at the time:
Like those hoity-toity salaried reporters, I often get tips and quotes from sources who choose to remain anonymous, and I don’t see why I should have to go to jail to protect their confidence, when, say Chris McGann wouldn’t? (And I will protect my sources, with or without a shield law, because that’s what journalists do.)
Well, things change. And now Goldy, formerly excluded by the law has its protection.
It’s an odd idea that candidates for public office (let alone an open government champion) should get to pick and choose which professional journalists get to attend their press conferences—and yes, that paycheck I get from The Stranger makes me a professional journalist as defined in McKenna’s own reporter shield law, so suck it up.
And the definitions still seem unworkable. For instance, so long as Goldy is being paid by The Stranger, he’ll have the force of law behind any sources he protects. If The Stranger doesn’t want his services any more and he comes back here, he may have to go to jail to protect sources. If he somehow makes enough money from ads and donations that he can pay the rest of the front pagers, and we break a story with anonymous sources, then I think the protection will apply to us, even as they still don’t apply to him.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the shield law we have is certainly better than no shield law. It works for most anonymously sourced news as newspaper, TV, and other “professional” outlets still dominate coverage, especially original coverage of the type that has the most anonymous sourcing. But as a country and as a state we’re moving (however slowly) away from that model. And the people who need the shield the most are the ones who don’t have it.
Eventually, a reporter who doesn’t fall under the statute’s protection is going to have to chose between prison and giving up their source. On principal, I’d chose prison, but it would be hard to justify to my family and to my employer. News is news, and while we amateurs tend to be more partisan and more over the place in terms of quality, we deserve the same protections as the paid media. The law is fairly new, but it’s already time for an upgrade.