Senators spar over definition of ‘journalist’ in seeking to protect them

Media Politics in Perspective

By Kate Irby | McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee, looking to provide protections for journalists and their sources, ran into a roadblock Thursday when lawmakers couldn’t agree on the definition of “journalist.”

Under the legislation, journalists wouldn’t have to comply with subpoenas or court orders forcing them to reveal sources or confidential information unless a judge first determines there’s reason to think that a crime has occurred and government officials have exhausted all other alternatives.

It’s the third time Congress has considered a “shield law” for journalists. Similar bills have failed despite bipartisan support.

“I’m hoping the third time’s a charm,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee’s chairman.

The bill defines a journalist as a person who has a “primary intent to investigate events and procure material” in order to inform the public by regularly gathering information through interviews and observations. The person also must…

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