A Letter to Senator Lindsey Graham: Yes, We Bloggers Deserve First Amendment Rights Too
Dear Senator Lindsey Graham,
Let me start by thanking you for jumpstarting congressional conversation regarding the need to strike an appropriate balance between freedom of the press and protection of national security interests in our country. Your bipartisan media shield law proposal sponsorship comes as a proper response to the overwhelming criticism Washington, D.C. officials recently faced for their now notorious slew of scandals, which ranged from overly broad subpoenas by the U.S. Justice Department to DOJ investigations of Fox News correspondent James Rosen's work. There absolutely is a need to have parameters set up that outline the distance between executive and media bodies, that ensure First Amendment rights for writers and publicists, and that clearly stipulate the point at which pressing issues become matters national of national security. Thank you.
But there is a lot wrong with your proposed bill as well.
First of all, your attempt to define journalism by a status-based definition of employment is ludicrous. To distinguish between bloggers and journalists when considering fundamental rights of U.S. citizens is wrong. First Amendment rights are unalienable for everyone. Everyone. That's the point. And furthermore, the saturation of bloggers in the nation today is invaluable: the increased amount of shared opinion and flourishing sources of available information has done nothing but diversify the media outlets of our country and protect our citizenry from singular-minded propaganda. Bloggers, while largely unpaid, are now a fundamental entity of journalism, no longer a bunch of low-lifers who "sit in [their] mothers' basements and chat away" as you've suggested. In fact, I will have you know that I am writing this article from a Starbucks. In broad daylight. So, ha.
But back to the point, your definition of publications as "persons and organizations engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news" aligns perfectly with what blogging, at its very core, is. Therefore, you and your proposed bill should not exclude the 47.8 million monthly posts on WordPress.com, but rather should seek to be an all-encompassing, all-inclusive protection.
I understand your concern with liable nation-threatening information being leaked through anonymous or public sources, but to combat such fear I suggest making applicable the conditions of prosecutable information leaked equal across all factions of journalism or reporting. That's to say, if my fellow classmate can find himself in jeopardy for writing about something he legally should not have, then the New York Times' top editorialist should as well.
Again, I commend you on even making this an issue. Like you said, journalists deserve First Amendment protection. And though this concession seems fairly arid to me considering all citizens deserve First Amendment protection, I’ll take your statement in its current phrasing as the product of the context in which it was made. Your next step, however, is to further understand the context with which you are dealing yourself, senator: bloggers are now undoubtedly journalists and are helping to spread information throughout all cleavages of society. If you are looking to protect writers, you must consequently be looking to protect bloggers as well.
A slightly disgruntled blogger who feels even he should be entitled to his constitutional rights despite his unpaid position here at PolicyMic.