Durbin to Bloggers: Drop Dead

Bloggers not considered journalists, Durbin says

By Steve Rhodes
|  Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009  |  Updated 8:03 AM CDT
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Chicago's Political Players

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Dick Durbin doesn't want to protect bloggers.

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Dick Durbin's formal definition of a journalist deserving of protection under a proposed federal shield law has set the blogosphere on fire, namely because the blogosphere isn't included.

Under an amendment backed by Durbin and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), only those working for "a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical" would be shielded from testifying in court about their confidential sources.

"Not included: student journalists, amateur bloggers, or even freelancers working without a contract," reports the Nieman Journalism Lab.

The rightosphere and the leftosphere have joined together to make Durbin a marked man.

"Democrats trying to criminalize citizen journalism," the Washington Examiner says.

"Help! Help! I'm/You're being repressed! (seriously)," Firedoglake says.

Even traditional media is outraged.

"We want to emphasize that we solidly support the Society of Professional Journalists, our nationwide parent organization, in urging you to stand firmly in support of a federal shield bill that does not exclude any journalist," the Chicago Headline Club wrote in a letter to Durbin. "Modern realities have significantly reduced the numbers of journalists who would be covered by your exemptions . . . Please accept that these people, too, are serious journalists and cover them by a shield law."

New York University media professor and nationally known citizen journalism guru Jay Rosen asks via Twitter: "Are Senators Feinstein and Durbin going to get away with this?"

Not without a fight.

An old maxim once advised to "never get in an argument with a man who buys ink by the barrel" - meaning the press. Durbin has just gotten into an argument with folks who buy ink by the barrel as well as those who buy pixels by the googleplex.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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