When Reporters are also Lobbyists

Politico today reports about congressional debate over a federal media shield law. The Free Flow of Information Act would give journalists — however they’re defined — legal protection so they would not be forced to reveal their sources. From “Shield law faces hurdles in Congress“:

When lawmakers see journalists stalking the halls of the Capitol, they often make a dive for the nearest office.

But things were different two weeks ago, when several lawmakers welcomed not one but a dozen journalists into their offices for private legislative strategy sessions.

The crew of journalists was making the rounds on Capitol Hill, lobbying for a national shield law to protect them and their sources from legal prosecution.

We want names. Who made up this crew?

We’d heard from friends on the Hill that some reporters and editors who cover members of Congress, i.e., journalists with the power to portray Senators and Representatives in favorable or unfavorable light, have also been unambiguous advocates of the media shield legislation. We haven’t seen this abandonment of impartiality noted elsewhere, so good for Politico’s Lisa Lerer for spotting the angle.

Perhaps additional reporting is warranted. We ask: Are these reporter/advocates registered lobbyists? Do they file lobbying reports? Do they divulge their advocacy in their reports, on the editorial pages?

P.S. In today’s article the issue is yet again framed as journalists versus national security. As we’ve noted before, that’s only part of the story. Business has serious concerns that a too-broadly written media shield  will protect the improper disclosure of trade secrets, personnel and medical records, and other materials for which being disclosed serves no public interest.

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