The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 4, 2014

Editorial: U.S. Senate should consider federal shield law for journalists

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Most states — including Oklahoma — have shield laws protecting reporters from giving up confidential sources.

Our country doesn’t have a federal shield law, but that soon could change.

The Society of Professional Journalists anticipates a bipartisan federal shield bill, S. 987, known as the “Free Flow of Information Act,” will be brought to the Senate floor.

Federally, it’s intended to maintain the free flow information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.

To overcome any potential filibuster, SPJ is suggesting senators be contacted to vote “yes” on S. 987. The argument is this legislation provides for the protection to exercise journalism in a free democracy.

The compromise bill also has a broad definition of what a “journalist” is.

SPJ believes this shield law would protect sources’ identities, and it includes safeguards for national security. Hundreds of journalists are targeted annually.

Some would argue that reporters should stand on the shoulders of the First Amendment and battle the public’s right to know and reporter privilege on an individual basis. Could a well-meaning shield law inadvertently diminish press freedom?

This is a good debate to have, because many journalists share the long-term legislative goal of attaining a federal shield law.