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MDDC Supports Maryland HB 385

Maryland HB 385 Privileged Communications – Dissemination of News or Information by Certain Persons
Why support this bill?
Maryland has a long history of protecting reporters, most recently extending the shield law to student reporters in 2010.With the absence of a Federal Shield Law it is critical that Maryland and other states look to upgrade their shield laws to address the new and ever changing way individuals receive news and the way newspapers gather and deliver news. Independent contractors engage in newsgathering and reporting in the same way as newsroom employees, but under the current law are not afforded the same protections. This bill simply closes that loophole.

Although the printed paper remains the preferred way individuals like to receive their news and in some areas of the state circulation is growing, clearly there is a trend and economic consequence associated with the growth of news delivery over the web, phone, or tablet. With that change has come the common use of bloggers, independent contractors, and shared news content for newspapers, as well as this loophole in the current law.

It is important to protect journalists operating in all capacities and we urge the passage of HB 385.

How this situation affects MDDC member papers
Independent contractors, working under contract to news media, contribute and produce investigative reports and other “hard” news items, which, at times, rely on confidential news sources. Over the past few years, many newspapers have had to cut newsroom staff, and many of those former staffers contribute reporting as independent contractors, subject to the same scrutiny and editorial standards. The current law does not protect the confidential sources of reporters in any of these situations. This loophole can have a chilling effecting on investigative journalism and confidential news sources, which is why passage of this bill is key.

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