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SPJ Backs Shield Law, Urges Passage

The Society of Professional Journalists has come out in support of compromise federal shield law bill and urged its passage.

The bill provides journalists a limited protection from having to give up their sources to the feds.

Among the compromised changes to the Free Flow of Information Act  are preserving a public interest and a balancing test presided over by judges, though with a carveout for "leaks with the potential for prospective harms" including to prevent future acts of terrorism or threats to national security or bodily harm. It also removes a requirement that those covered by the shield be salaried employees or independent contractors for a particular media organization. That should mean the bill will cover freelancers and bloggers.

SPJ said Wednesday that, while the bill was not perfect, after a careful vetting by counsel, it backs the new langauge and "hopes for its quick passage" in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.

One of the imperfections is that the bill does not cover nonconfidential information. In practical terms, "this would include any interview notes, unpublished footage or other material in which there was no prior confidentiality agreement," the groups said.

The committee has attempted to bring the bill to a vote numerous times in the past few weeks but has run into various obstacles.