Who Or What Is A Journalist These Days?

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Last week, at a hearing on the state's beleaguered media shield law, Sen. Clayton Hee handed out photocopies of an old Chicago Tribune front page. "Dewey Defeats Truman" played in large block type across the top of the daily paper.

By old, I mean old. 1948. Hee was dredging up the past to make a point about how the press makes mistakes — Harry Truman actually won re-election to the presidency by defeating challenger Thomas Dewey — and somehow that's why a shield law is a bad idea.

Linking making honest mistakes to protecting a journalist from being forced to reveal a confidential source or turning over notes is kind of a head-scratcher in and of itself.

But what really got me thinking was whether Sen. Hee, who should be the most informed of citizens given his power over our lives, is actually stuck so far in the past that he has little clue about the news industry's present state or where it's going in the future. You could easily reach that conclusion by the way he's rewritten the shield law and his definition of who or what a journalist is.

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