Shield law can’t make it out alive

Proponents of a bill that would help journalists protect confidential sources failed Wednesday to muster enough votes to move the legislation forward for a vote.

Supports still hope the move the bill, which has bipartisan support, by the end of the year. A compromise piece of legislation brokered by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) appears to have enough support to pass, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The bill fell victim to election-year politics. Republicans have vowed to block any legislation that doesn’t address the nation’s growing energy crisis, but neither party has been able to agree on a compromise energy bill. Wednesday, only five Republicans voted to cut off debate on the shield law, including the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)

Schumer’s compromise attempts to address concerns about reporters who work with sources who divulge sensitive information pertaining to national security. Many of the recent flashpoints between the government and media have occurred in this context, including the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity and the dissemination of information from government sources that suggested former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee was a spy.

Large media organizations are overwhelmingly in support of the bill, which would create a qualified privilege if a journalist is presented with a subpoena asking for his sources.

Additionally, the bill narrows the definition of journalist in an attempt to separate professional news-gatherers from basement-dwelling bloggers. Although, as readers well know, that’s not always an easy distinction to make. I can, at least, tell you that I dont even have a basement.

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