Reporters Rights: from Students to Professionals

It’s a tough time for us. Not only is the field of journalism in a constant upheaval and the jobs scarce, our role within the field is murky at best. Are we students? Freelancers? Bloggers? Professional journalists? Consider also what is now considered news. With emerging platforms, a twitpic, tweet or a popular blog post could very well land on the front page of established publications. Without a concrete definition, the legal consequences can be financially and professionally devastating for the writer and his or her sources.

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a journalist is a “salaried employee” of an established news service. This definition doesn’t include freelancers writing for clips and without pay, student reporters and bloggers.

Geanne Rosenberg, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism professor, writes that reporters right’s should extend to student journalists nationally, especially now as students cover ground bigger publications haven’t.

Luckily New York is one of the few states in which reporter’s rights are extended to students, though the shield law would still not fully protect them or their sources.

Shield laws and reporter’s rights still require improvement, as they differ from state to state and only a limited federal shield law exists.

The ever-changing landscape of journalism require journalists and reporters to be diligent about their reporting and their rights. As students transitioning to the professional arena, remaining knowledgeable about media law is just part of the job.