Static: Wednesday, April 06, 2005
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Support Your Local Sources

The idea of journalists lobbying makes most newshounds howl in discomfort. Ditto the idea that the ink-stained wretches of our profession need special privileges and legislation in order to be able to do our jobs. Information that reporters can get, from the government or Big Business, is supposed to be the same that everybody can get, and so on. That lofty ideal, however, was formulated before federal prosecutors and judges decided to declare open season on journalists. At last count, more than a dozen reporters across the country were facing subpoenas seeking the identity of their confidential sources and in some cases, their notes, phone records, and probably their underwear sizes. One reporter who refused to burn his source was fined more than $85,000 and is serving a six-month sentence (albeit at home). Several others, including Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time, also face jail time, if their appeals fail.
As a result, many journalists and news organizations have dropped their long-standing opposition to reporter shield laws. In 31 states, such laws give at least some protection to journalists regarding confidential sources. There are two such measures now being considered by Congress; in Austin, Senate Bill 604 may have a chance. So, if you think things like Fort Worth school district corruption, city-hall low-income housing follies, Medicaid fraud and other such stories have merit, consider picking up the phone and telling your local lawmaker so on the record.

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