By Derrick DePledge
The Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii chapter on Saturday asked state lawmakers to vote against the conference draft of a news media shield law.
The request, by Stirling Morita, the SPJ chapter president, follows a similar plea by the Media Council of Hawaii on Friday.
Much of the disappointment with the conference draft in media circles has centered on the exclusion of bloggers and other non-traditional journalists, and while Morita makes that point in his letter to lawmakers, he also cites the fact that the exceptions to the shield law would be expanded for the traditional journalists the law would still cover.
Lawmakers who support a strong shield law -- one lawmaker said privately on Friday -- will have to decide whether it is better to keep a weakened law in place and attempt to improve it later or to scrap the law and start over.
From Morita, a night city editor at the Star-Advertiser:
It is with a sense of sadness that I must ask you to vote against House Bill 622, HD1, SD1, CD1, Relating to Evidence. We have tried hard to renew a law that has worked for five years and is being crippled by the Attorney General’s Office, which has no facts to back up its contentions that the law should be dramatically revised.
The intent of shield laws is to benefit journalism but this bill will no longer do so.
This bill exempts so many instances from the source protection privilege that it is almost like having no shield law at all. The media would be better off arguing case law because that’s virtually all the bill allows.