"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible;
to be credible we must be truthful." - Edward R Murrow

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it's stronger with a shield

Shield laws are on my mind. The future of the shield law is definitely going to contribute in a large way to the future of journalism.

For anyone reading this blog that may not understand "shield laws" I can explain. A shield law is legislation that is designed to provide news reporters/journalists the right to keep a source secret. The right to stand up in a court of law and refuse to testify the source in which the information/quotes were gathered from.

Many journalists have actually gone to jail due to the decision to NOT reveal the sources.

Without going back in history and recalling every case, I want to think to the future.
I know that each state has its own specific shield law or form of this law, but when it gets to the federal level how will it all be decided?

A fairly recent news article I found addressing this topic is from September 30, 2009 (scroll down to the bottom to my links to read more. I have included a more recent one that links to an article from late December 2009). An online article via nytimes.com says:

"The Obama administration has told lawmakers that it opposes legislation that could protect reporters from being imprisoned if they refuse to disclose confidential sources who leak material about national security, according to several people involved with the negotiations.
The administration this week sent to Congress sweeping revisions to a 'media shield' bill that would significantly weaken its protections against forcing reporters to testify. -Charlie Savage"


Further reading explains that the rights may only extend to journalists that are hired for specific companies. That means that this right would not extend to freelance journalists, bloggers, college students working for college papers.. in other words anyone that isn't employed to a specific news organization.

I can see from the administration's point of view, but I think that it is my right as a journalist to be able to obtain this information -- and by interviewing other sources that will go on record and argue for / against the information provided , be able to expose this information. Anonymous sources can cause the credibility of the story to decrease, but in investigative cases it is necessary. I don't think it should happen quite often, and I think most of the time it happens once in a while when a BIG story is being leaked. Journalists know not to randomly allow confidentiality to a source unless it would truly damage the source's reputation, job, safety, etc. We need to keep our sources safe.

Journalists aren't working against the government (at least not me), and we are not working FOR the government. We are working alongside them, and everyone else, in order to accomplish our goal, to educate the public on things that truly matter. To provide information that the public deserves to have.

This could all be subjective, and I know most of it is, but I wonder what deep dark secret the government could be hiding if it is that important that cases of national security are not kept confidential.

I apologize if I don't make sense. I am rather sick and have been bedridden for over 24 hours. Shield laws have been one of the most prominent things within my mind, and I thought I would share this with you all.

Other articles regarding the shield laws:


"Anonymous sources are a practice of American journalism in the 20th and 21st century, a relatively recent practice. The literary tradition of anonymity goes back to the Bible. " - Joe Klein

Read Users' Comments (2)

2 Response to "The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it's stronger with a shield"

  1. M.W. says:
    February 6, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    hmmmm interesting.

    Hope you feel better.

  2. Jackie Rwigamba says:
    February 7, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Good Job Nikkey.YOur story is very informative.I like the fact that you explained the shield law and went on to give detail.

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