How will the government know to whom it will grant this federal shield? It will be necessary for the federal government to define “journalists.” It is, in effect, a federal license to practice the First Amendment. Won’t it be a comfort when your license to practice journalism is granted by the likes of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales?
We can go anywhere and cover what we please because we are American citizens. Every citizen has always had freedom of the press—the freedom to print a pamphlet like Tom Paine, start a Kiplinger newsletter, or write a book like Upton Sinclair. The Internet has made it even easier to practice citizen journalism.
When the government starts to decide who is qualified to be a journalist, where does that leave bloggers? Freelance writers? Documentary filmmakers? People writing books based on investigative journalism? Where does it leave the average American who wants to speak out about their government? Can the government decide Chris Cillizza (Washington Post blogger) is a journalist but that Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) is not?
There is a false argument raging on the Internet about whether bloggers are “journalists” and whether they should be accorded the same rights and privileges. This is idiocy. The rights and privileges belong to every American citizen, whether they work for a newspaper or whether they even have a blog. For it to be any other way the government would have to be able to define what constitutes journalism. Any takers?
I don't want the government creating a separate class of citizens free from judicial orders.