Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Journalist Shield Laws and Community Responsibility

The Minnesota Daily, the independent campus newspaper of my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, recently wrote an editorial griping that the campus police weren't doing more to prevent bike theft or catch bike thieves. The response by the Chief of UMPD is classic:

Lastly, we definitely rely on student collaboration. An example would be last year when a Daily photographer captured a bicycle thief in the act behind Coffman Union, voluntarily offered to turn the photos over to officers only to be overruled by Daily editors under their mistaken impression the event was protected by the "“shield law."” It is disingenuous in the extreme that the Daily editorial staff would pontificate about a lack of UMPD commitment to protecting student property while abdicating your own duty as citizens.

I love it. Full disclosure, though, when I was a student at Minnesota I worked for the UMPD, and often made fun of the Daily for sucking.

This is a great illustration of why such "shield laws" are so dumb. And as I've written before, because the First Amendment makes us all journalists by birthright, it takes a hard core elitist to think that just because you have press pass that you're somehow above the duties and responsibilities that come with being a citizen.

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