One definition of a journalist: you have to get paid

Medill MagazineA Medill graduate, Ed Finkel, is working on a story for the recently redesigned Medill magazine on citizen journalism, the impact of blogs on journalism, and how we define a journalist in this new media landscape.

Money makes the title

I don’t pretend to have an answer to Ed’s question. But I did think of one interesting place to look: the government.

Recent legislation pushed through the House proposes a reporter’s privilege, or the right to protect one’s sources against court subpoena. (For more on the background of the Reporter’s Privilege, here’s a great article in U.S. News & World Report, or check out the The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.)

The Free Flow of Information Act, as the legislation is titled, defines a “covered person” as:

a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

I think it’s interesting because it expands the definition of a journalist, for the purposes of a reporter’s privilege, to bloggers, podcasters, or anyone else who performs acts of journalism – but only as long as they make money.

Now this isn’t the only definition, and it is a narrowly construed one at that, but it could ultimately become an important one that shapes the debate from here on out.

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