Should reporters enjoy special federal protections?

Feb 9, 2018

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  A mid-state media scholar is taking issue with a proposed law that would make it a federal crime to physically harm or intimidate journalists.

California Congressional Rep. Eric Swalwell introduced the bill, citing attacks on the press by President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Credit whitehouse.gov

But Professor of Media Law Dr. Larry Burriss contends making powerful people and the public angry is just a part of a reporter’s job.

“When the media make people angry, make people upset, they’re doing a good job. They’re, at one level, getting people to talk about the issues, which is important, and they’re exposing problems.”

Prominent industry groups support Swalwell’s legislation. The Society of Professional Journalists write “the rhetoric being spewed by some people in positions of power is dangerous to those covering the news …It has to stop.” 

Dr. Burriss says he would be far more concerned if President Trump actually took steps to hobble the media, as he has frequently threatened to do.

Burris goes on to say he sees a different problem as potentially far more damaging to journalism. He notes the general public is having trouble telling the difference between works by trained, professional journalists, and sensational, social media driven stories written by people claiming to be reporters.

“How do we stop the people who are merely claiming to be journalists and aren’t; how do we prevent them? They have a voice to say as well, but I think the public doesn’t see the difference.”

Burriss acknowledges everyone’s right to speak their mind, but says it’s a problem that needs a solution.