WaPo on Media Shield: Thanks for Noticing

By October 29, 2007Briefly Legal, Media Relations

The Washington Post on Sunday editorialized in strong support of a federal media shield law, i.e., Free Flow of Information Act, shocked that, “Journalists have had to lawyer up …” Well, welcome to U.S. society, circa 2007.

Still, it’s a reasonable editorial, noting the two versions of the legislation.

The House bill that passed 398 to 21 would compel the disclosure of sources in federal court only to prevent bodily harm or death, to identify a person who unlawfully revealed a business trade secret or “nonpublic personal information,” or to prevent a terrorist attack on the United States or harm to national security. The Senate bill applies to confidential sources except if they were eyewitnesses to crimes or if disclosure would prevent a terrorist attack or bodily harm. While there are other distinctions between the two proposals, we support both of them. The Washington Post Co. continues to lobby actively for a shield law.

Our emphasis.

Thank you, editors, for acknowledging the business and trade secrets element in the House legislation. We had barked at the Post for a self-absorbed attitude about the legislation, focusing only on the impact on journalists. This editorial recognizes the broad scope of these issues.

And, on balance, it looks like the House bill is preferable on that basis.

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