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March 15, 2005
"Journalist" Is a Verb
Ernie Miller on Apple v. Does and "what the First Amendment wants to protect":
Much of this debate has revolved around whether bloggers are journalists or to whom press shield laws should apply, should it be to people who work for established mainstream media, should we measure whether the process of journalism was followed, yadda, yadda, yadda. I find that much of this debate misses the point.
Why do we want a press shield in the first place? The reason derives from the First Amendment. We want to encourage people to gather information and publicly disseminate it without unduly impacting legitimate law enforcement interests. So, how do we limit the press shield appropriately? ...The four possible means are: favoring one kind of speaker, one kind of content, one medium of communication, or one type of process. ...
In the end, it seems to me, the only process worth protecting is gathering information and public distribution or the intent to publicly distribute said information. That is what the First Amendment wants to protect. Sure, we would prefer that information be verified and people have track records, but the First Amendment doesn't and shouldn't care. It is a relatively simple and brightline test. It would certainly protect mainstream journalists, as well as bloggers.
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