Does the Left Hate a Free Press?

The left hates a truly free press. The recent Senate bill that “protects” reporters and “strengthens” shield laws is nothing more than the government defining who is a journalist and who is not. Translation for those low information voters who just might NOT quite understand potential problem with this bill: the government will sanction reporters and determine who “deserves” protection and who gets screwed. In the future, the government will use its power to intimidate journalists and news outlets. While much of the mainstream media has been in the tank for Obama, Team Obama has repaid that loyalty back by spying on them. The tipping point, in some respect, for the public was the James Rosen case in which the Department of Justice all but accused Rosen of being a criminal.

Senators want to identify who is a real reporter, but in the constant changing world of journalism, the definition of journalists changes every day. An author friend observed that 95% of writers have full time jobs other than writing, but the Senate is defining a journalist as someone who works for “a news gathering organization.”

Glen Reynolds questioned the Senate bill, “Does this policy protect anyone doing journalism, or just members of the establishment? The Justice Department talks about protection for 'news media' (the guidelines don't use the word 'press') but doesn't provide any guidance on just who that is. Presumably, if you're drawing a paycheck from the New York Times or Gannett (the parent company of USA TODAY), you're covered. (But note that, not too long ago, the Obama administration was claiming that Fox News, home of James Rosen, one of the key targets of recent Justice Department snooping, was not a 'legitimate news organization.') If the Justice Department can pick and choose in this fashion, the guidelines don't mean much.” Reynolds' point is that Justice Department didn’t follow their own rules in the first place, and now they will have the authority to determine who is and who isn’t a reporter. Considering that Obama administration considers Fox an illegitimate news organization, to give the government the power to determine who is a reporter and who isn’t, is asking for nothing more than government-sanctioned reporters.

Anyone who knows what is happening will know that many reporters who have broken stories don’t belong to the “mainstream media.” In the Middle East, journalists like Michael Totten, Michal Yon, Bill Roggio and J.D. Johannes covered the conflicts with depth not seen by mainstream media. (J.D. Johannes' documentaries are available in Barnes and Noble stores, and in reviewing them, you will find stories rarely seen in mainstream media.)

Citizen journalist James O’ Keefe exposed ACORN voter fraud and financial abuse which had the effect of Congress defunding this corrupt organization. Reynolds added, “But even if the guidelines extend to everyone who draws a paycheck as a reporter or pundit -- hey, I guess that would include me -- that's still not enough. In this era of blogging, social media and independent journalism, there are an awful lot of people doing serious journalism who aren't drawing a paycheck from a media organization. They deserve protection, too.”

What the Senate has approved is a licensing scheme for journalism, but for many in mainstream media, this will simply not only cut out competition but allow the media to be the gate keeper of the news. Big Media is starting to behave like crony capitalists, and this shows the lack of hard journalism in the Obama era. If a Republican had done half of the things that the Obama administration had done, we would be talking impeachment. This attitude was shown by David Gregory who questioned Glenn Greenwald's credentials as a journalist, but it was Greenwald who broke the NSA story. It is not like if Gregory had broken any major stories.

Some of the best journalism is done by various online media outlets like the leftist Huffington Post (many of these journalists aren’t even paid), the Daily Caller and the conservative Breitbart.com, not by mainstream media. J.D. Johannes has been one of the best journalists covering the Middle East, but by the standard of the Senate bill, he may not be covered. If the Senate is working on the bill to protect journalists, they should protect journalism not journalists.

LA Times David Savage disagrees with Reynolds and others that this bill will restrict journalism as he reported, “Feinstein introduced an amendment that defines a 'covered journalist' as someone who gathers and reports news for 'an entity or service that disseminates news and information.' The definition includes freelancers, part-timers and student journalists, and it permits a judge to go further and extend the protections to any legitimate news-gathering activities…But the bill also makes it clear that the legal protection is not absolute. Federal officials still may 'compel disclosure' from a journalist who has information that could stop or prevent crimes such as murder, kidnapping or child abduction or prevent 'acts of terrorism' or significant harm to national security.” Savage opinion is that there are enough protection for citizen-journalists. While the law protects free lancers and part-timers, it does also state that they belong to groups that are news gathering organizations, but who defines what is a legitimate new organization? Remember this is the same administration who once declared Fox as an illegitimate news organization. The other thing to consider is that this protection ceases if national security is at stake, but who defines what is national security?

Journalists throughout the ages were often citizen-journalists and not professionals. The Senate bill has two objectives. The first is to protect their friends in the media and strengthen the hands of the mainstream media, which means strengthening the leftist political establishment. The second objective is to control media and ensure favorable coverage. In the process, we are seeing an attack on the first amendment under the guise of saving journalism from ever more aggressive government intrusion. This gives mainstream media reason to support this latest attack on their profession since many of them benefit. Mainstream media benefitted from the pre-Citizen United days since mainstream media members were essentially exempt from any prohibition that other corporate donors suffered, and they could exercise political advocacy without any legal restraint. They will also benefit from this bill while the long term damage to their professions will come years later when they become just another arm of a more powerful Bureaucratic state. Matt Drudge summed this up when he declared the Senators supporting this as fascists, but then Drudge fears he may not have the same protection as those who write for the mainstream media. Drudge understands that this bill is but one more step toward the road to serfdom.

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