Blogs are a technology, and nothing more. There is nothing magic about the word blog. Blog, blog, blog, blog, blog. See, I did not turn into a frog.
What is a little frightening is the lack of perspective about where bloggers belong — and that goes back to fundamental misunderstandings about journalists.
Here’s the example de jour: as Congress starts shutting down national security loopholes, the lines they tread are blurry at best.
Ohio Senator Mike DeWine is drafting a bill that would make it illegal to disclose information about either terrorist surveillance, -or- any activity carried out under the 1978 wiretap law that is cited as authorization. A draft of the proposed legislation got leaked to the Associated Press, and there are a number of concerns about it.
The bill is apparently still rather broad in its language, which leads some to believe you could be prosecuted for reading an article about surveillance and telling a friend about it. Highly doubtful.
It’s not uncommon for these drafts to float out as “trial balloons” as part of the vetting procedure. You find out what is troubling, and you fix it before the final release. What is disconcerting to me is the attitude of the policy wonk who is helping write this thing:
“It in no way applies to reporters – in any way, shape or form,” said Mike Dawson, a senior policy adviser to DeWine, responding to an inquiry Friday afternoon. “If a technical fix is necessary, it will be made.”
Reporters love to brag about how they are the “Fourth Estate,” and bask in their special privileges. But are they really that special? Doesn’t the same First Amendment apply to all Americans?
What worries me is how exactly Congress is going to go about defining what is and is not a “reporter.”
Blogs. Blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs. Nothing magic about the word, but there is something magic about what people put in them. Especially the ones with lots of letters and words and stuff. There’s no telling what kinds of thoughts and opinions can be expressed. And that’s the problem.
This is not a salvo in the debate about whether blogs will ever be on par with the mainstream media. This is about fairness. This is about free speech.
How do you define what a “reporter” is? By their activity? Is one who gathers facts and summarizes them in a publishable form a “reporter?” Is it defined by the medium? Radio-TV-Pulp okay, Blog bad? Whatabout those writing for “online magazines” like Slate? Surely, they must be considered reporters.
Well, maybe we look at it from a professional definition. Does that mean that you have to have a press pass from an “approved” entity to be a reporter? Does it mean that you have to be “professional” in the sense of making money at it? What about people with AdSense on their blogs? Do you have to make certain amount of money to be considered a pro? What if your newspaper hasn’t made money in five years, and some blogger is raking in six-figures?
There is not yet an adequate definition of “reporter” that could not conceivably include every U.S. citizen. There is no “test” you have to pass, no professional certification, no government regulation.
When there is, you have my permission to be scared.