Thursday, November 10, 2005

With Friends Like Hyman . . .

At first blush, I should be grateful to Mark Hyman for his recent commentary saying that bloggers shouldn't be discriminated against. It seems awfully magnanimous for Hyman to defend me despite being constantly debunked and exposed on this website.

But before we get too touchy-feely, let's look at why Hyman comes to the defense of bloggers.

Hyman argues that laws which protect print and broadcast journalists from having to name their sources but that don't offer the same protection to bloggers are discriminatory.

That sounds good, and it suggests that Hyman would be in favor of laws that apply this same protection to bloggers. But that's not the case. In fact, Hyman is against *all* laws that protect any journalist from having to name their sources:

On principle, I don't believe anyone including journalists should be given special rights not available to the public at large. I don't agree journalists should be allowed to protect sources if those sources are suspected of breaking the law.

So it's not so much that Hyman is supporting bloggers as much as that he's against the rights of all journalists.

as we've pointed out before, this position assures that journalists will be unable to do their job, just as lawyers, doctors, and clergy wouldn't be able to do their jobs if their right to confidentiality was done away with. If Hyman believes that journalists shouldn't have rights the general public lacks, doesn't that suggest that *no* profession should have rights denied to everyone? If not, why not? If so, is Hyman for a Roman Catholic priest being forced to reveal what's been said in the confessional or go to jail (for example)?

This commentary also illustrates
a second recurring Hyman trope: his "nuanced" take on whether he himself is a journalist.

In this particular editorial, Hyman clearly wants to portray himself as a journalist because it will make him seem all the more magnanimous and fair minded in his repudiation of the privileges journalists have:

"I am clearly out of step with most people who work in the journalism field when it comes to the topic of a federal shield law."

Hyman picks his words carefully; note that he doesn't actually call himself a journalist. But he clearly intends to set up the contrast with "most journalists" in a way that suggests his inclusion in this group.

We've noted many times before that Hyman, and "The Point" segment generally, are often excused by Sinclair as being merely commentary, but then will suddenly take on the trappings of doing "reports" from various locations. Hyman calls himself a journalist in those cases where it suits him, but denies this label when it could be used against him.

As for myself, I don't think that bloggers, as a group, are journalists. Those who make a living at it and do work that can be shown to be journalism (rather than simply commentary) should be protected by the same laws that protect journalists working in other media. But simply doing something that seems vaguely like journalism shouldn't be confused with the real article, just as someone who offers amateur legal advice to a friend shouldn't be allowed to claim attorney/client privilege.

As far as the importance of confidentiality to the journalistic mission goes, perhaps Hyman would like to take the issue up with Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who said, ""The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people."

And that's The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.29


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