National Press Club

Press Freedom Committee reports: Shield Law likely dead for session

October 1, 2008

Wes Pippert , chairman of the Press Freedom Committee, offers this update on several issues the Club has been involved in or been following:

The shield law legislation is probably dead for this session of Congress, according to several representatives of media organizations who track freedom of the press issues.

Club member Kevin Goldberg , a media attorney, says that press freedom groups fear a Senate calendar stuffed with economic legislation will leave no room for the media law before recess. Goldberg who, as counsel to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and other groups, meets with other Washington Representatives of media associations on a regular basis, said that efforts are focused on recruiting more senators to support the legislation, which has passed the House.

The bill sets federal standards similar to those found in various state-passed shield laws for requiring a journalist to testify in federal court regarding information obtained in the course of newgathering.

Several media organizations are also supporting Whistleblower Protection legislation that has passed both chambers of Congress but has to go through conference committee.

The Smithsonian Institution, which is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, is responding to pressure from its trustees by proposing a policy of more disclosure. Media organizations are planning a response.