Brief pause here for a gentle “WTF?” at the statements of the NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, about shield laws that allow journalists to protect their sources.
The question in the NSW Parliament standing committee on Wednesday was about whether bloggers and other “non-traditional” media should have the same protection as those employed in the mainstream media.
Smith said that there was no public interest in covering bloggers, because they might be “ratbags” or representatives of terrorist organisations.
“I am protecting bona fide journalist who actually receive money from a publication that is respected in the community and available to the public generally. That is what my shield laws cover.”
Asked whether he thought that new media was not worth the same level of protection as traditional print and electronic, Smith said:
“I think the problem is that there is very little sanction against those people and very little discipline, whereas a journalist can be sacked if he has a job with the Sun-Herald or The Daily Telegraph or something like that and he or she publishes something that is inappropriate or that has to do with the work of criminals. I have seen examples in the past in my experience as a criminal lawyer where journalists have been used by corrupt people to name an informer so as to destroy a prosecution.”
Now, Smith is in NSW, not Victoria, so his reflections on the protection of sources, and the responsibility displayed by tabloid newspaper journalists, could not include recent events, highlighted by the OPI report released yesterday.
But then the discussion moved on to whether your very own Crikey would be covered, and Smith said:
“I am not aware of Crikey publications being of the nature that anybody would bother asking who was the source of that information … I had a subscription to Crikey for a while and I did not continue it because I did not think it was worth continuing. I am sorry, there is some useful stuff in it, but it is largely gossip.”
Which means, of course, that everyone should stop reading now …
For those of you still with me, there is of course a legitimate question, in an era when anyone can publish news and information to the world, of who is and isn’t a journalist.
The NSW approach is different to that taken in the Greens — initiated amendments to the federal Whistleblower Protection Act that protect citizen-journalists, bloggers and independent media organisations as well as news professionals from the mainstream media.
Just who is and isn’t a journalist is yet to be tested in court. One day, surely, it will be and that will be very interesting indeed.
Is bad journalism, such as Andrew Bolt’s recent litigated inaccuracies, still journalism?
Is good blogging journalism?
In the meantime, we’ll just carry on gossiping.