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On Mike Signorile's show @2:30 ET re: the prospective fed shield law and bloggers

(UPDATE: we’ll also talk about the breaking news that the President will speak at HRC’s annual dinner on Saturday.)

Tune in to Sirius/XM Out Q today at 2:30 ET (free pass here); I’m going on the Michelangelo Signorile Show to discuss my post from the other day, “Hanging citizen journalists out to dry: shield-law amendment excludes unpaid bloggers,” related to the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009 (S 448 I, H.R.985.IH).

The latest retooling of the bill before the Senate would exclude non-“salaried” journalists and bloggers from the proprosed protections that would prevent a journalist from revealing a controversial source (save acts of terrorism, for instance). While only some bloggers would fall into that category, the real danger of this bill is the fact that  it would establish in federal law a definition of “journalist”. It

limits the definition of a journalist to one who “obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity-

a. that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means; and

b. that-

1. publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;

2. operates a radio or television broadcast station, network, cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier;

3. operates a programming service; or

4. operates a news agency or wire service.”

As I said in my post, this will alllow pols, news outlets, state governments, etc. to deny citizen journalists press access because they are not considered “real journalists.” It’s a huge slippery slope and a loss for independent reporting by bloggers if this definition clears, with bloggers considered journalists when its convenient for a party to include or exclude citizen journalists or apply rules to them. Witness some relevant news today.

FTC: Bloggers Must Disclose Payments for Reviews

The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.

It is the first time since 1980 that the commission has revised its guidelines on endorsements and testimonials, and the first time the rules have covered bloggers. But the commission stopped short Monday of specifying how bloggers must disclose any conflicts of interest.

And if you’re in violation, the penalty levied could run up to $11K. Now I don’t really have a problem with the content of this rule — people have a right to know if the blogger/journalist is being compensated in some way. In the case of reviews, I suppose if a book is reviewed, one will now need to put a tag line on the piece saying whether the blogger received a review copy (which is not the final edition of a book, btw). That seems kind of absurd since you need the book to review it and often the publisher wants it in the hands of a reviewer before or just as it goes into stores, but whatever. It’s not a regulation that is unreasonable.

A big however is below the fold.However, you see that in this case, a federal body is regulating bloggers in the same way it regulates journalists. This is the mess I’m talking about — I can see it coming down the pike — all sorts of measures of accountability (for good or ill), but none of the protections and access that a federally defined jounalist will have. This is patently unfair, and journalists, politicians and organizations know this.

I would be very surprised if any groups involved on either side of news gathering is going to go to bat for bloggers because they are seen as competition or a threat to their power or even existence. I think this is wrong-headed paranoia, since I’ve always said that

It’s a symbiotic relationship as well — many LGBT reporters want their stories linked on high-traffic symbiotic relationship as well — many LGBT reporters want their stories linked on high-traffic or influential gay blogs because it expands their reader reach, and builds support to continue doing the work critical for both journalism and the equality movement overall.

But this is why we need to discuss this measure’s long-term impact. Of course there may be ways to work around this fed shield law language through creating a blogger news agency to files stories with and pay people through, but that’s not the point — we have to ask why the language is being tailored in such a way to begin with — specifically cutting bloggers off at the knees. Why is the very independent journalism that has thrived on blogs due to not being corporatized being vilified? We know the answers to thatl fo course, but any solution or workaround creates the very bureaucracy that has eventually caused the media to get lazy and malleable and concerned about reporting that will reduce access.

Is this the route we want to go? Tune in @ 2:30 ET and we’ll get the dialogue started.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding