muckraker report

State lawmakers try to narrowly define who’s a journalist

Newspaper guyWho’s a journalist?

According to a bill before the state House, it’s solely someone who works for a newspaper or FCC-licensed radio or TV station.

If passed, reporters who write strictly for on-line news organizations, such as Deadline Detroit, MLive and Huffington Post, would be denied access to some police records. In this case, the records involve car accidents.

Critics worry the narrow definition will wend its way into future bills aimed at restricting access to records – a move that undermines independent, on-line journalism.

Even reputable wire services, such as the Associated Press and Reuters, would be barred access under House Bill No. 4770.

On Thursday morning, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the bill.

“That is a far too narrow definition of news media in the 21st century,” said Jane Briggs Bunting, of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government. “Journalism comes in a variety of different delivery forms. Some individual bloggers have more followers than the circulation of many newspapers in this state or audiences of radio and television news stations.”

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods. The committee chairman is Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.