Federal Shield Law Fallout  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   April/May 2009

Federal Shield Law Fallout   

By Unknown
     


In joining with nearly every newspaper and journalists' organization in America to demand a federal shield law (From the Editor, February/March), AJR apparently sees no irony in reporters increasing their use of tools such as the FOIA to gain access to more and more government information. The overlapping messages seem to be that newsgatherers will dig hard to get a story but don't really want the public to be able to judge how accurate the story is. Trust us.

Add to those facts the general skepticism with which the public regards the press, especially the media's willingness to be manipulated by biased anonymous sources in the name of expediency, and it's not hard to understand why Congress has been unwilling to grant reporters a carte blanche shield protection that the rest of the public doesn't have.

Patrick Mattimore

Fellow,

Institute for Analytic Journalism

Gex, France

How does one create a shield law that protects those who may be victims of confidential sources? What is the duty to maintain confidentiality to a lying source? What remedies are available to the victims of the story, including the journalist? Certainly there should be a chilling effect on the use of confidential sources in order to protect the truth. Justice is only served by truth, and sunshine is the antiseptic that can highlight the truth.

One wonders at the arrogance of journalists who believe that they and they alone have the right to ruin lives without paying a price. Only they have the right to be watchdogs! One can believe that the loss of readership and ad revenue of newspapers is due only to the Internet and the economy, but one cannot ignore the fact that the people have lost faith in journalism.

With due respect, the people are the watchdogs of the press, and when it fails to tell the truth in order to serve its own purposes, the people abandon it. If politicians become isolated from the public, journalists are even more isolated.

H. Michael Sarkisian

Sacramento, California

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