Pros And Cons Of Shield Law

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Eric Anderson Journalism 310 Professor Boeck 23 November 2008 Should there be a Federal Shield Law? Most people can attest that honesty, loyalty, and integrity all construct the solid foundation for which trust is built upon. If any of these values were to be broken, then trust would become eradicated. Picture yourself being a journalist and a person contacts you with vital information about an internal investigation within the Los Angeles Police department. No officers have been caught engaging in any illegal activity, but the male’s testimony, along with documents provided, can serve as the catalyst for making the corrupt officers ostensible. The man clearly states that he will only cooperate under the conditions that his name not…show more content…
Currently, thirty-four states and the District of Columbia offer shield law protections. There are four states with some protections for journalists and sixteen with no form of shield laws. These laws vary from state to state. Some protections apply to civil but not to criminal proceedings. Other laws protect journalists from revealing confidential sources, but not other information. While some state legislatures have adopted protections into state law, others such as New Hampshire and West Virginia rely on state court precedents. This inconsistency is the foremost reason why journalists desire a federal shield law. Judith Miller, a former investigative reporter for The New York Times, feels as though a federal shield law is needed because “individual journalists and individual news organizations shouldn't have to be in the situation of deciding like this, on a case-by-case basis, whether or not we're going to go to jail or violate our commitment”(Miller). Miller went to jail for 85 days after refusing to reveal her source in the Valerie Plame investigation, and as a result many can see that she is not basing her notions on hypothetical situations but through proof of testament. President of ABC News David Westin believes that the First Amendment gives special protection to journalist. He expresses that “even if it's not within the words of…show more content…
One of the flaws that the opposition notices is that in way shield laws afford extra privileges to journalists and that no citizen should be able to ignore a court ordered subpoena. Simply put, journalist would be placed above the law. Justice Department Official John Ashcroft stated that “reporters today are driven by their editors to deliver tersely written “scoops” usually whispered to them by individuals with political or self-serving agendas who refuse to be identified” and that they “should ultimately be held accountable for acting recklessly and irresponsibly. Allowing journalist this privilege would only further allow them you be able to utilize non-credible sources. Opponents also cite problems with defining who is considered a journalist or news gatherer and who is not. Former Army scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill sat down with Executive Director for The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and presented the argument unqualified individuals could be deemed as journalist and be subject to the federal shield law. In its current form, the law protects only "a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism," which involves the "gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or

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