If you’re just sick and tired of reading about why the reporter’s shield law currently stalled in the Senate is terrible for the country . . . well, I guess you must be a Reasonable Minds subscriber, because you certainly can’t be sick and tired of reading shield law opposition elsewhere. But if you’re still tuned in on this issue, Dan Rather devoted a segment of his program to it a few nights ago, and it is worth watching online, if only to tease me about it later.
The Rather piece appears at a time when the bar for intellectual honesty about this issue in the mainstream media is quite low. Surprisingly, I think the situation is actually better than it used to be. A couple of months ago, the Wall Street Journal was kind enough to print an op-ed in which I expressed opposition to the “reporter’s shield legislation” that is supported by virtually every news organization and the small handful of corporations that own them all. It was a drop in the bucket compared to all the editorials on the other side, many of them rather transparently based on talking points distributed by trade lobbies like the Society for Professional Journalists and the Newspaper Association of America. But it was almost the first step any major news outlet made toward presenting the argument against the shield law the media lobby wants so desperately.
In the last two months, mainstream media outlets have shown more inclination to feature opposing viewpoints, either as standalone pieces, or as participants in roundtable discussions. Sometimes, unfortunately, shield opponents are included merely as tokens whose names are used but whose substantive views are ignored. A few individual journalists have also written some very good pieces (like these two and this one) dissenting from journalistic dogma on this issue. Others have written columns of bovine dimness. One of the more balanced pieces to appear so far is the one showing in the gallery of Washington’s new tourist attraction, the Newseum. (I have a copy, but unfortunately the Newseum did not purchase Internet republication rights so I can’t post it here.) But Rather’s piece achieves about as much balance while conveying quite a bit more information about the underlying case.
Some who have seen the Rather piece have complained to me that they think I should have been asked to respond to this or that claim by the other people who appeared on the show. In fact, I was asked to respond, and I did so, for about 90 minutes. Obviously only a tiny portion of what I said could fit into the broadcast. Maybe in a day or two I’ll post a few of the points that ended up on the cutting room floor. But for now, watch the version that aired and let Reasonable Minds know what you think.
UPDATE (April 2010): The show (Episode 318, “A Price to Print”) is now available on iTunes for $1.99. This link might work.