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Maybe You’re a Journalist, But Then Again, Maybe Not

McClatchy’s Kate Irby reports from the Senate Judiciary Committee that some senators are struggling over just who might be a journalist—and therefore worthy of protection from intrusive federal government subpoenas and court orders relating to their work—and who might not be.

The bill defines a journalist as a person who has a “primary intent to investigate events and procure material” in order to inform the public by regularly gathering information through interviews and observations. The person also must intend to report on the news at the start of obtaining any protected information and must plan to publish that news.

But senators disagreed on how to define journalists, since some thought the bill’s definition wasn’t specific enough.

“Specific enough” is code for “doesn’t include political enemies” since Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was worried it might cover someone who worked at Wikileaks (or Glenn Greenwald, probably, though she doesn’t seem to have come out and said it directly).

Unfortunately, that was the least troublesome objection.


Feinstein suggested the definition could be fixed by only covering those who received a “salary” for their work. Sorry freelancers, you know you’ve always been the bottom rung with real journalists standing atop you, and at least one senator sees it that way, too. Unpaid bloggers (or even just entrepreneurial types who toil away yet don’t take a salary)? Feinstein probably doesn’t even realize you exist.

At least we can all say we now know what it’s like to watch Congress grapple with an issue they don’t seem to really understand, yet affects us very directly.

Update: The original version of this story quoted the McClatchy article cited above, which attributed comments actually made by Sen. Feinstein to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the original sponsor of the bill. It has since been corrected.

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