Monday, April 11, 2005

David Shaw, Gasp, May Be Right About Us Bloggers And Our Rights

It's begun to occur to me that L.A. Times columnist David Shaw may be right, after all, about us bloggers not having the rights of full-time, paid journalists. I hate to admit it, but I think he has us in a kind of a cul-de-sac.

The fact is, if there are eight million bloggers, as some say, it's going to be impossible to give all of them the right to protect their sources. If this were done, the criminal prosecution system would fall apart, wouldn't it?

Shield laws, such as already show signs of crumbling under assault by the courts, necessarily have to be restricted to fairly narrow cases, otherwise anybody can claim to be a blogger and get away with telling criminal prosecutors nothing, isn't that so?

I do believe it's important for journalists to be able to keep their sources secret. Otherwise what we have known as the free press is not going to be nearly so free. And that in turn would adversely affect our democracy.

The trouble is, and maybe David Shaw should write more about this, how do you write a shield law that will shield the paid journalists and not include the bloggers? What about equal protection of the laws? I think this is going to have to take some inventive thinking. And the courts, hidebound as they so often are to the thinking of the legal profession, may not be on the press side.

Bloggers, like the printing press centuries ago, are going to change many things. We are spreading free speech into corners where it has not gone before. But we have to take care that the traditional prerogatives of the free press don't get impinged by it. And, frankly, I don't know how this is going to be done.

So I'm suggesting that Shaw and others write more on this topic, and tell us what they think ought to be done and can, feasibly, be done..

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