Exactly Who Fits the Definition of ‘Journalist?’

Shield law: House and Senate differ on who’s a journalist

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a federal shield law today that would protect journalists from subpoenas for their confidential sources — that is, if legislators can agree on who counts as a journalist.

A version of the shield law already passed by the House (H.R. 985) casts the issue largely in financial terms (emphasis added):

The term “covered person” means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

That definition would exclude amateurs of any sort, whether student reporters or bloggers with a day job, not to mention to anyone in the grey area of citizen journalism. [Nieman Journalism Lab]