The Seattle P-I’s Thomas Shapley sounds a little pissed….
Keep quiet about legislation pending in Olympia. After newspapers were outraged that a shield bill might be partly hung up over Senate Dems’ fear of a GOP attorney general getting credit for the media-friendly bill, Sen. Erik Poulsen, D-Seattle, told a Seattle paper, “you don’t threaten and insult the party in power and get your bill passed.”
Hmm. Really? So… um… if you want to pressure legislators to pass a bill, you gotta be (shhhhh) very quiet. Wow. Just think of all the money special interests are wasting on lobbying and PR.
Shapley snarkily continues:
That’s as crude as cautioning politicians about messing with folks who buy ink by the barrel.
Touche, but… uh… what’s so special about ink?
See, you didn’t hear much support for this bill from us bloggers, because quite frankly, it specifically excluded us… an exclusion the editorialists seemed well aware of every time they reassured their readers that the bill only shielded those who “earn their living” from journalism. Gee… thanks for the collegiality guys.
Of course I understand the pragmatic need to draw the line somewhere, otherwise anybody could throw just about anything up on Blogspot and cynically claim shield law protections. But it’s hard to argue that what I do — every single day — isn’t journalism. I do research, I conduct interviews, I threaten and insult politicians… and sometimes, I even break stories that influence current events.
And of course, I write. And I write. And I write and write and write and write. I often write more words in a day than columnists like Shapley write in a week.
But unfortunately for me, I’ve apparently violated the cardinal rule of capitalism: I’ve failed to commoditize myself by putting a price on my product. So no matter how professionally I endeavor to conduct myself, no matter how many hours I devote to my craft, unless somebody pays me by the hour I simply don’t deserve the same legal protections afforded professional journalists. Well ain’t that a slap in the face?
Notice, it’s not enough simply to earn a little cash from my efforts; part-time freelancers would have been excluded too. Advertising and donations bring in a little spare change, but no… apparently, I’d have to earn my living from blogging for the law to consider me a real journalist… and even then I’m not convinced the bill’s protections would have applied.
Hmm. I wonder if Seattle Times’ publisher Frank Blethen would fall under the bill’s protection, since in attempting to break the JOA, he has claimed his paper has lost money for years? So how exactly does a newspaper’s owner “earn a living” from a paper that loses money?
Well, not to worry Frank, because the bill was pretty much intended to protect only those journalists steadily employed by media corporations — and those who own them — because… um… you know… when our founding fathers proclaimed the exigence of a “free press,” they of course meant only that press which charged for its services. Which means Frank wouldn’t have to go to jail for protecting a source, but I would.
Well screw that.
To all you whistle-blowers, leakers, and law firm copy boys out there just itching to let the public know what you know we all need to know, whatever the information’s legal provenance, here’s a tip: I wouldn’t trust those pampered, princesses in the paid media as far as I could throw them. Listen to them whine about their precious shield law… what kind of confidence does that give you that they’d be willing to give up their freedom to protect yours?
Us bloggers, on the other hand, we’ve got balls.
Shield law? Shield law?! We don’t need no stinkin’ shield law! If I promise to protect your identity, I’ll protect your identity, whatever the consequences. And you can rest assured that no chicken-shit, lawsuit-shy publisher is ever going to hand over my notes… because I have no publisher. (And quite frankly, I’m so disorganized, I don’t really have notes.)
Why would I martyr myself to protect a source? Well, maybe because I’m a little nuts. And maybe I’m savvy enough to realize that the first local blogger to be jailed for not revealing his source is going to walk out of prison with a national profile.
But mostly it’s because I believe that the only protection against fascism is a free press, and I simply don’t trust the corporate media to fill this crucial role on its own. Sure, I’d rather the shield law be extended to bloggers like me than not — if only out of respect — but if Rob McKenna and the editorial boards and eventually the state Legislature want to measure a journalist’s professionalism in dollars earned, well then, that’s up to them.
Every day journalists the world over risk their freedom — and their lives — in defense of a free press. Now that’s professionalism. Kinda puts the spat over WA’s shield law into perspective.