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Saturday, April 27, 2013
(No) Shield Law Passes Conference – Will Limit Our News Sources
By News Release @ 11:55 AM :: 2946 Views :: First Amendment

(No) Shield Law Passes Conference – Will Limit Our News Sources

News Release from Senator Laura Thielen April 26, 2013

The “Shield Law” bill passed out of Conference Committee yesterday (HB 622).

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Bill specifically isolates modern journalists and deprives them of even common law protections against having their sources revealed.

How?  Because it eliminates our current law, and replaces it with a new law that would over-ride common law protections for journalists.

I think the House did a terrible job negotiating this final bill – they gained only a very minor concession from Senator Hee, and agreed to something that is worse than if they had just let the old law lapse, and have our state go back to common law.

Hawaii’s current law covers online-only journalists – which is necessary in today’s rapidly evolving media environment.

Common law (what covers journalists in the absence of any specific statute) would likely apply a test to determine if an online reporter was acting as a reporter.  So an online-only journalist’s sources would likely remain confidential under common law.

But if this bill passes, it specifically narrows the definition of journalist to exclude many modern journalists who are operating exclusively online.  And because the Bill defines who is covered – and who isn’t – then the common law protections may no longer apply.

If this bill passes the House AND Senate nest week, it will become law.  Journalists will be defined exclusively as someone employed by or otherwise associated with any newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association, television or radio networks.

“Magazines” only qualify if they are distributed for at least a year with a paid circulation.

“Newspapers” only qualify if they are printed and distributed with a paid circulation.

Sorry Ian Lind and others, you will be hung out to dry for the high quality investigative reporting you do.

And what “concession” did the House get in these negotiations?

Just that a reporter who stops working for traditional media, will be able to keep their sources confidential – but only for the stories they were working on under those traditional media sources.

So all you reporters getting laid off as our traditional media market collapses: you are being hung out to dry too.  No starting your own modern business on reporting.  Better start stocking up on quills and parchment.

As for the rest of us who appreciate access to a variety of news sources – not just the traditional ones – this antiquated approach only exacerbates the market consolidation of news and the limited information we can access relating to our government, business, and communities.

If you’re opposed to narrowing our news sources, contact legislators and ask them to vote “No” on HB 622.


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