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Conyers Backs Journalists, Slams Media

The House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the proposed federal shield law Thursday.

The law would protect journalists' sources, including those of bloggers, in federalo investigations, with some carve-outs for national security, trade seccrets or personal health information, but a just would have to determine that seeking those sources trumped the public's interest in protecting them.

Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) supports the bill, but in his opening remarks THursday suggested that reporters needed protection not only from federal investigators but from their own corporate parents.

Conyers said the right of reporters to maintain confidential sources was a core freedom, calling free press the cornerstone of Democracy. But he also said suggested the state of the media was not good. Saying the media was increasingly corporatized and consolidated, Conyers suggested that made it prone to intimidation by those in power.

He said the name of William Randolph Hearst came to mind, a "media person who could start a war, and did."

Texas Republican Lamar Smith said he was all for press freedom too, but was concerned that the bill did not sufficiently protect information vital to national security, trade secrets or some categories of personal information, saying some in law enforcement were concerned.

The shield law extends the protection of sources from federal investigators to bloggers, which gave Smith pause as well. He said any new legislation should "look at them as emerging news sources, but are they really journalists?"