Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I just hate it when I get lied to...

and I'm pretty sure that a staffer at the House Judiciary Committee just baldly lied about a committee amendment to HR2102, the Free Flow of Information Act. Its basic purpose is to establish a federal shield law for journalists.

As I wrote last week, the bill was reported out of the Judiciary Committee just prior to the House's summer break with a manager's amendment that, among other things, would limit the definition of protected journalism to that is for 'financial gain' or 'livelihood.'

Based on the discussion recorded in the transcript, the change was definitely targeted at amateur bloggers.

Earlier today, I called the House Judiciary Committee looking for a copy of the language of the amendment, as it has not been posted on the House website as yet, four weeks after the meeting.

That question (when the language will be available) was never answered, but the staffer who answered the phone (sorry, didn't get his name) stated, after putting me on hold and consulting with someone, that such language, while discussed in the meeting, was not part of the manager's amendment.

Let me reiterate, quoting from the transcript of the meeting -

Rep. Boucher describing his manager's amendment, from page 33 of the transcript:
First, to be a journalist entitled to the protection, the person must engage in journalism for financial gain or livelihood,

Rep. Conyers, the committee chair, from pages 105 and 106:

All those in favor of the manager's amendment as amended will indicate by signifying, "Aye."

All those opposed, indicate by saying, "No."

The ayes have it, and so ordered.

We now move to the question on reporting the bill as amended favorably to the House.

All those in favor will signify by saying, "Aye."

Those opposed, "No."

In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. The ayes have it, and the bill as amended is reported.

The transcript shows that the manager's amendment was amended by Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Louis Gohmert (R-TX) to include language that had nothing to do with the defintion of protected journalism, but that's it.

The discussion chronicled in the transcript *did* indicate that further changes are under discussion and could be forthcoming, perhaps via floor amendments. In addition, there was some confusion about the meaning of "financial gain or livelihood" so some of the changes may be of a clarifying nature..

However, any way that I read the transcript leads to the same conclusion - no matter how much the staffer insists, the bill has been amended to exclude amateur bloggers from protection.

I'd like to cut him some slack, to say that the misinformation wasn't a lie, that it was due to confusion with the text of the transcript, but the transcript was very clear on the basics. The committee staffer (or perhaps the person he consulted with while I was on hold) lied.

The phone call flustered me so much that I forgot to inquire about part of the transcript that deserves further illumination -

On page 42 of the transcript, Rep. Pence (R-IN) spoke about "many weeks' worth of negotiations."

I was curious about who participated in those "negotiations."

Maybe next call. :)

Note: In related news, Desert Beacon in Nevada has the scoop on a Nevada representative, Jon Porter (R-NV3), sounding off on bloggers, and why they shouldn't be protected by a shield law.

From the Laughlin Times -
Asked if he supports a federal shield law for the press, he said he did. However, the problem is how to protect legitimate reporters when there are web logs, “blogs,” whose authors can defame and lie with impunity because they can be anonymous and don't have to worry about the facts.

“I would like to strengthen the legitimate news sources. I'm very concerned about blogs and even some radio. They can hide behind a shield law but they are not legitimate news sources,” the congressman said.

Note: Congressman Porter isn't a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Somebody needs to tell the good Congressman and his colleagues that one doesn't need to work for a corporate media conglomerate to be a journalist; in fact, given the state of journalism in the U.S. today, one could argue that there is very little actual journalism in today's mainstream media, no matter how profitable In addition, many bloggers are at least as good at verifying sources and facts as anybody working for one of those conglomerates.

Especially Fox News.


In addition, they need to understand that disagreement, even partisan-based disagreement, isn't 'defamation' or 'lies.' If they don't want us to write about the things that they do that they don't want folks to know about, they should quit doing those things in the first place.

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