October 3rd, 2009
12:20 PM ET
13 years ago

Journalists target Obama over 'shield law'

WASHINGTON (CNN)– Journalists are blasting President Obama over his stance on proposed legislation that would protect journalists from having to reveal the identity of their sources.

In an email sent out late Friday, the Society of Professional Journalists expressed 'outrage' over President Obama's proposed changes to the shield bill that would protect reporters from having to divulge confidential sources in court.

"Not long ago, President Obama was a key supporter of this bill, but after one meeting with his national security team he appears to have been scared into making this poor decision," SPJ President Kevin Smith said in a statement. SPJ cited an event in April 2008, where candidate Obama threw his support behind the proposed legislation, the Free Flow of Information Act.

"President Obama was elected by the people, for the people. It's time for him to stand up and support legislation that gives those people the power to have better oversight of their government," Smith said.

The Society of Professional Journalists, which was founded in 1909, has boast over 10,000 members nationwide. Its Their mission to promote "the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press."

Lawyers for journalists have often cited a 1972 Supreme Court ruling to say they were protected by the First Amendment from having to testify about confidential sources. But in 2003, a federal appeals court judge said that ruling does not protect journalists.

Thirty-six states (including Washington, D.C.) have enacted some form of shield law, but there is no Federal law protecting a reporter's privilege, which the sponsors of the Free Flow of Information hope to correct.

–Ram Ramgopal and Katie Glaeser contributed to this report

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. S Callahan

    AHhh The Sleeping Giant is awake....

    In truth, there are really two good arguments with his...one good, one not so good....Let the Debate begin!

    October 3, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. John

    To Whom It May Concern:

    This is bad reporting. I see no mention of what declaration, statement, etc President Obama has made that points to his reversal on this issue. If he in fact did make such a reversal, it is your responsibility as "journalist" to provide that information in your report so that the reader can decide for her- or himself.


    October 3, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Jerry

    How does one make sense of this article?

    Throughout reading it, I was trying to understand what changes Obama has proposed to the bill/law, yet the article never explains that core fact...only says the journalists are against his proposed changes.

    I little more detail would be helpful.

    October 3, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    So what are the changes Pres. Obama supports? Giant hole in the story. We need intelligence in journalism as much as a shield law.

    October 3, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. Hennessy Cognac Black, WI

    Reporter's need to be PROTECTED; President Obama made the RIGHT decision...

    October 3, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Alan Ashby

    So what are the changes Pres. Obama supports? That's a giant hole in the story. We need intelligence in reporting as much as we need a shield law.

    October 3, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Squirt

    Wait a minute....doesn't the U.S. Constitution protect the press—specifically and by name???? SInce when does a judicial ruling, a presidential order or a congressional bill usurp the authority of the Constitution?? Take away that right and pretty soon, the rest of us will have NO rights at all—except the right to pay taxes to bail out the rich, the banks, Wall Street and the military-industrial complex!!! We're moving in the wrong direction here.....way wrong!!!

    October 3, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    This is another sneaky attack on the first amendment. Just a little bit at a time. He is also trying to nibble away at the second amendment as well. And who knows what other protections they will go after next.

    October 3, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Will, NJ

    Can students also get a shield law? I would love to submit information without having to cite a source.

    October 3, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. J of K

    sooooo, the MSM are finding out what it is like to have rights taken away. maybe now they will start reporting in steading of covering up for the Obumus administration.

    October 3, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. Jim

    I have mixed feelings about this. I think corruption is often classified as top secret and we definitely want to expose it. There may be some situations where national security is at risk, but I would rather err on the side of openness.

    October 3, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. katiec

    The problem is we do not get better oversight.
    The media totally supports big business, consequently the republicans and the reporting leaves alot to be desired, as what
    we get is their negativity, slanting, sensationalizing and total bias.
    If we could trust the media for fair, trustworthy reporting it would
    be a different story, but we cannot.
    And, a bigger problem is some take what is reported as gospel.
    When you have your radicals spewing hate, anger, fear mongering
    and the division of our country and the media constantly headlining
    them, it is edvident they ALL are working on brainwashing the
    American people.

    October 3, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. Rogerd

    Does it come as a surprize that what this administration said during the campaign cycle is much different than now !

    This is what this administration will write about in their memoirs..."The Duping of the Media"

    October 3, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |

    AMERICA LOST the OLYIMPICS and republicans rejocied LOL

    NEXT they will cheer when

    1) Terriorist wins the war
    2)Economy is completely destroyed
    3) No health insurance for Americans

    What happened to COUNTRY first BS the repulicans like to SPEW LOL



    October 3, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  15. Burns NH

    Mr. president has no desire of preserving free speech or any other
    rights as stated in the Bill of rights or the Constitution. He has his
    own views and a shadow government in the wings to do his magic
    to us all. He is deserving to be impeached by his own words. "change". Those words meant to take away our basic rights
    and impose on Americans,all Americans regardless of background
    under the control of the government,his "shadow Government. If you
    all can abide being subjected to this proposal,then we are all in a
    world of hurt. I grew up with family values and passed them on to my
    family. Family,God and Country. "and that is just the way it is:.

    October 3, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  16. Don

    Obama opposed a lot that people in power wants, now you guys in the media gave him the power, now he wants to use it! And being immuned from and shielded by the main stream media, he can do more damage and be less transparent than (say) Bush.

    You guys in the media are nuts to believe a Chicago politician he is all good...... you helped elected a boomerang that is acting now against YOU GUYS! (I am sure he will have a great smile and nice words to explain his position.....and you guys will buy it again (and again))..

    October 3, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  17. If Republicans represent "christian" values, then come Judgment Day, this elitist heathen will be glad to stand apart from THAT CROWD!

    Sorry President Obama we agree in many areas, but not on this, the source should always be identifiable, otherwise, credibility takes a dive.

    We would not like the entire MSM to end up like Faux News, the NYT today revealed the Noise has been using nonexistent/fabricated poll numbers supplied by Strategic Visions owned by Johnson and has just been censured by the professional pollster group, only the second in 12 years. Johnson is a frequent commentator on the Noise.

    I know I am shocked and appalled that Fake News would ever lie or use fabricated poll numbers!

    Of course, neither MSNBC or CNN's hands are clean either as they have used this as a source of info and the NYT admitted it had used him at least 3 times. Easier to let someone else do your jobs?

    That President Obama is why I disagree, journalistic integrity is almost non-existent as this scandal shows, we citizens want to uphold whatever shred of factual information may remain.

    October 3, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  18. Voter

    In case you all haven't noticed, Obama scares easy.

    Well, folks, this is CHANGE – "Change you can believe in," if I remember the phrase correctly.

    How do like it, journalists? I bet you thought he was on your side – everyone did.

    October 3, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  19. center left

    It's simple folks. We have too many cable news and blogger who have shoddy facts on issue. Who would profit pushing conspiracy theories. Just look at Foxnews.

    October 3, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. Roger in CA

    I'm as much of a believer in freedom of the press and other rights as the next guy, but I am always troubled by shield laws painted with too broad a brush.

    As we should have learned from the Valerie Plame fiasco, there has to be a difference between protecting legitimate confidential sources (e.g., whistleblowers providing material information that is wrongfully being concealed by some person or entity about some activity), and the sources whose act of disclosure is in and of itself a crime or other violation of law (e.g., disclosing the identity of an undercover government agent).

    The former is the legitimate role of the press, to shine light on activities that SHOULDN'T be kept secret. The latter is VERY DIFFERENT: the press being manipulated as a means to an illegitimate end.

    October 3, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  21. Peter

    I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.
    Mahatma Gandhi
    Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 – 1948)

    October 3, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. Trang, Fremont, CA

    I think this is a poor decision by Obama, especially when he campaigned on transparency.

    It's like when you write an essay, you have to cite the source where you get the information, and people will decide how good is the source of your information.

    October 3, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  23. Pat

    The SPJ should relax. Obama is probably trying to craft legislation with Eric Holder's help to force only journalists working to the Fox News Channel to divulge their sources – not anybody else's. Anything is possible with this administration.

    October 3, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. Paul

    No way, Barack Obama working his hardest to eliminate every semblance of transparency left in the federal government while simultaneously trying to give it regulatory control of what we read, watch, hear and think?

    What about this did you morons not anticipate last November?

    October 3, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. bellablue

    Well I'm sure President Obama will NEVER BE SCARED INTO making ANY decision!! Furthermore, it's time to put a definition on "free flow of information"!! Most of the information that we get these days is false, ugly, very aggressive, and only promotes negative speak. Most of the time it is inaccurate and untrue!!

    October 3, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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