What is a good indication of political balance in the media? When lawmakers and politicians from both parties support media "shield laws" to protect confidential sources.
In the past, I've tended to consider this a more liberal issue, but not totally. My hesitation stems from being leery of the liberties many journalists take in using anonymous interviews--as I wrote in The Western Front
last spring. At the moment, there is no federal shield law to protect journalist from grand jury subpoenas and the like. What conservatives have come out in support of more journalistic protection? The names are surprising.
Congressman Mike Pence, a conservative superstar in the Midwest, and increasingly more recognizable as one of the most effective conservative leaders in the House, has become one of the primary sponsors of a federal shield law
. I hate to say it, but The New York Times reporter, Judith Miller's fight to protect a Republican source may have had something to do with the surge in GOP attention. That source, Cheney aid, “Scooter” Libby, has since, of course, been indicted in the leak you all know so much (or so little perhaps) about by now.Note: I added a new link from my good friend Aaron Hankin, who heads up the "Draft Pence Movement" dedicated to promoting his name for a presidential bid in 2008. There's a lot of material in his blog.
On the Washington state level, conservative Attorney General Rob McKenna has garnered the respect of journalists everywhere by first getting his hands dirty cleaning up the access laws (freedom of information laws) in Washington, and now, by publicly endorsing a state shield law. While Washington doesn't have a shield law per se, some Washington courts have ruled favorably to journalists in the past, setting minor precedent for partial protection. As stated in The Seattle Times
, many would like the protection to be more water tight.
"Someone might say we don't need it; we've only had a few cases," (McKenna said.) "But not having it can chill the speech of a confidential source. You don't have to have a case where someone is being put in stocks in the public square for this to be a good idea. It will encourage confidential sources to reveal important information to the media."
It bears noting that Stefan Sharkanski of Sound Politics.com
doesn’t really care about it, just as long as bloggers are included, and I would agree that there can’t be special privileges granted to some citizens just because they are gathering the information for a certain kind of publication. If the first amendment is going to be construed to protect one person, there had better not be a double standard.