As seen on Slate.com
Beware of anything that unites 60 of the nation's top media organizations and press associations. This ordinarily quarrelsome lot has set aside their differences to support a pending federal shield law—the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 2035)—designed to help journalists protect their confidential sources from federal subpoenas.
Everybody (PDF) from the Washington Post to Reuters to the Newspaper Guild to Bloomberg News to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to NPR to the New York Times Co. is backing the bill, whose House analog, H.R. 2102, cleared that chamber 398 to 21 last October. The Newspaper Association of America and the National Association of Broadcasters produced an ad touting the legislation, and the ad ran in both the Post (a full page) and Times (two full pages!) this week in donated space.
A federal shield law has long been on the to-do list of many news organizations. But what really got the First Amendment lobby's engine running were two events from the summer of 2003. First, a decision by Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, upset the media-friendly legal consensus that had grown out of the 1972 Supreme Court decision in Branzburg v. Hayes. Without getting too legal on you, Posner's reading of Branzburg essentially convinced his fellow judges that journalists had no right, qualified or absolute, to withhold testimony when subpoenaed. READ MORE...
Read Part 2 of Shafer's screed against the shield law