Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cornyn's Folly -- Hunter/Gatherer Journalists

Thanks to May it Please the Court and Lauren Gelman for being the first to speak out.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with several others, are sponsoring the Free Flow of Information Act, a law that sets out some pretty detailed requirements that must be present before a court can compel disclosure of material from the media, or "covered person."

John Cornyn's interpretation of "covered person" doesn't include bloggers.

The bill's text clearly does, though, which begs the question of whether or not it will be changed. Certainly if Mr. Cornyn has his way, it will be.

I quoted Jay Rosen in a previous post, and I believe it's worth posting again:

"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one. That is the Number One reason why weblogs matter."

What is it, really, about bloggers that makes so many people so nervous? Is it "Big Media" leading the charge? Is it that our elected officials are afraid of bloggers and what they can do?

Certainly not. The possibility for inaccuracy and bias that exists in the blogosphere exists in traditional media, as well. Just ask the New York Times. The simple fact of the matter is that bloggers are journalists, and they're not. Not really so simple, I know. I realize that there are bloggers who actively cover stories, hitting the streets with their cell-phones and laptops, but most of the blogosphere is a collection of editorializers, passively accepting reported news and commenting on it.

We're gatherers, not hunters.

The question is, should the hunters among us be considered journalists?

My answer is, absolutely. I seek no protection for myself, at least not right now, other than my freedom of speech. I consider myself a journalist only in so far as I am a "disseminator" of information, to a certain extent. I don't actively cover stories. My practice suffers enough from the small amount of time I spend editorializing. I'll certainly never (well, maybe never) have a confidential source whose identity I need to protect. But does that mean those gatherers like myself are doomed to sit in a journalistic limbo, forced to atone for our lack of editors, fact-checkers, and proofreaders by rolling over on our similarly situated hunter brethren?

I think not. Besides, hunters are hunters for a reason. I don't fancy my head on a virtual wall.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Everybody Get Down!!!! It's a... Cookie!!!!

From the You've-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me Department, San Diego evacuated AN ENTIRE AIRPORT after the x-ray genius thought he saw bomb making material in a carry-on bag.

Apparently, children's toys and cookies, when placed in the same bag, look suspiciously like improvised explosive devices.

They evacuated the airport at 7:45a.m., and here's the kicker. They apparently didn't figure out it was a cookie until sometime around 9:20a.m., when they opened the doors to let passengers back into the building.

My questions are as follows:

1. What kind of toy was it?
2. What kind of cookie was it?
3. What kind of carry-on bag was it?

I know, they seem like silly questions, but hey, how are we supposed to protect ourselves from the evils of toys and baked goods if we don't know which ones to watch out for?

I'd also like to know how the owner of that carry-on bag felt, when the TSA employee raised the alarm.

I've got an idea to fix the problem, though. We can add another step to the airport security gauntlet, in which we force everyone to empty their carry-on bags onto a table, so the x-ray dude doesn't blow a gasket and shut the place down for an hour and a half.

Or, we could simply outlaw toys and cookies which, when taken together, are a dangerous combination. We can now add Chips Ahoy to the list of items too dangerous to be taken on an airplane.

So leave 'em at home, folks. Right next to your fingernail clippers and your breast milk.