Opinion: Leave the definition of a journalist alone

Opinion: Leave the definition of a journalist alone

Cory Spiers

A handful of lawmakers have questioned what a journalist is and have suggested redefining it.


And they might have a chance to do so.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that a senate panel, the Judiciary Committee, has approved legislation aimed toward protecting reporters and news media from revealing confidential sources just months after the Justice Department had subpoenaed telephone records and lines used by the AP and secretly “used a search warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist.”

In order to provide these protections, the panel voted 13-5 in favor of defining what makes a journalist.

“The protections would apply to ‘covered journalists,’ defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information,” according to the article. “The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 months or three months within the last five years.”

Student journalists and those with significant freelance work are included in this proposed definition.

There are three senators I know of who have questioned what a journalist is.

From one state over, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in early June that we should ask ourselves if bloggers need the same protections as other journalists, according to the National Journal. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times on June 26 that not every “blogger, tweeter or Facebook user is a ‘journalist.’”

And rounding out the bunch is Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who said Aug. 1 that “real reporters” are only those who draw a salary, according to McClatchy DC. Thankfully, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was there to defend unpaid bloggers.

I am somewhat thankful that compromises to the definition of a journalist have been met since claims by Graham, Durbin and Feinstein were made, who are all members of the Judiciary Committee. 

I’m protected and my staff is protected, but what about those who uphold the responsibility of gathering information for the public and do not fall under the proposed definition?

I ask that these lawmakers revisit the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

I ask the Judiciary Committee to protect our rights. 

Do not redefine who we are. The Constitution’s definition stands for itself. 


Bragg, a senior journalism and public relations major from Lillington, is the editor-in-chief.