I get it.
You’re a journalist and you live by deadlines. If it doesn’t have to be done by tomorrow, you still have plenty of time.
Well the deadline for this task is Friday. You need to do this by Friday.
Contact the two US Senators from your state and tell them to pass the Free Flow of Information Act: Senate bill | House bill
There’s been a lot of discussion about press freedom recently. Under the cloak of “national security” the Department of Justice secretly obtained the telephone records of reporters at the Associated Press. The DOJ also searched the emails and subpoenaed the phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen.
As others, including SPJ President Sonny Albarado and RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender have pointed out, a federal shield law might not have stopped the DOJ from its fishing expeditions, but it would give journalists a check against over-reach by the federal government. Basically, a federal shield law protects reporters in federal court from being forced to disclose confidential information or sources. It’s a protection similar to those already enjoyed in every state court but one. (I’m looking at you, Wyoming. What’s up with you?)
We’ve been down this road before, but something has always derailed the federal effort. Congress came close to passing a federal shield law in 2010, but the issues that same year surrounding the Wikileaks episode eroded much of the support. This time around, Congress is debating another shot at passing a federal shield law, coincidentally with the support of President Obama, on the heels of the criticism generated by the Department of Justice actions. It may or may not be an olive branch, but no matter, we as an industry should support this legislation.
Many journalists may feel awkward contacting their Senators in support of legislation. Our professional ethics and guidelines typically keep us on the sidelines, writing about the pros and cons of legislation, but never saying outright, “I want you to pass this.”
But who better than members of the working press to explain to Senators why this law is so important? Most Americans have forgotten the names of Judith Miller, Josh Wolf and Jim Taricani, but we remember these reporters jailed for refusing to testify. As RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender has said, “This isn’t about the press’ right to know, it’s about the public’s right to be informed.”
I’m going to make this as easy as possible.
You can find the contact information for your Senators here.
Feel free to steal language about the issue from us here.
And I’m giving you a deadline: Do this before the end of business on Friday.
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