By Derrick DePledge
State House negotiators have prepared a conference draft of a news media shield law bill that would protect bloggers and other non-traditional journalists.
The House draft would restore language in the shield law, removed by the Senate, that affords protection to individuals who regularly report news of substantial public interest or have similar reasons as traditional journalists for shielding the identity of confidential sources. The draft also would restore the protection for whistleblowers and others who have information that is in the public interest.
But the draft would still expand the exceptions to the shield law from felony cases and civil cases involving defamation to potential felonies and serious crimes involving unlawful injury to people or animals and all civil cases. It would also make clear that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to information to prepare their defense.
The draft would also eliminate the protection for unpublished information, such as notes, not likely to lead to the identity of confidential sources.
News media interests have complained that the revisions proposed by the House, and particularly by the Senate, would severely weaken the shield law, which was established in 2008 and expires at the end of June. The protection for bloggers and non-traditional journalists in the shield law has been considered a national model.
Rep. Karl Rhoads, the lead House negotiator, and Sen. Clayton Hee, the lead Senate negotiator, will resume conference committee on the bill on Monday afternoon.