Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., shocked many yesterday when he went public to muse over the question of whether bloggers “deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.” Actually, it may be a question for Lindsey Graham but it is not a question of our time. Bloggers are clearly entitled to first amendment rights as are other citizens. Graham appears to be trying to raise the question of whether they are entitled to protections accorded journalists under a federal shield law.
Graham stood before reporters to pose the question: “Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves. Is any blogger out there saying anything—do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.”
Putting aside his confusion between general first amendment rights, including the right to free speech, and press protections, Graham appears to be clueless about the shift of the media toward Internet reporting and blogging. It is astonishing that he would question the status of bloggers who regularly cover the government and politics as journalists. Bloggers are now included in the White House press conferences and other media events. The White House regularly brings in bloggers with traditional media for meeting affecting the free press.
Congressional members have long been quietly hostile to the federal shield law, which is why virtually every state has passed it despite the lack of a federal law. These members have a love/hate relationship with the media. They need the media but resent the media.
In Graham’s defense, there has been a long discussion of how broad the definition of a journalist can become without losing any sense of definition or limits. Traditional media figures have been known to raise this question. However, Graham puts a more menacing spin on the question by questioning all bloggers and failing to distinguish between the federal shield law and already recognized first amendment rights of bloggers.