Wolf needs a Shield, and so do you

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By Sarah Phelan

With the Chronicle reporters off the hook, what's going to happen to jailed freelancer Josh Wolf? News that a mediator has been brought in is a ray of hope. But people should not forget that Wolf's credentials as a journalist have been repeatedly challenged, and even mocked, by the US Attorney's Office. What's particularly disturbing is that all this is going down against a backdrop of increased media consolidation. How many journalists have full time jobs? How many photographers? How many can even afford to make journalism their full -time job? Sure, journalism is a profession for which you can get credentialed up the kazoo, but the truth is that many great reporters and videographers are self-taught, and/or are freelancers, working their craft in between another job, and rarely and barely getting paid for their labor. And what about the person who sees something going down, and picks up a notebook or camera, and faithfully records it? Many a great career started that way.
Right now, Rep. John Conyers has a bill in the works that would define a journalist as someone who is engaged in gathering and reporting on news, written, photography, video, regardless of whether the person was paid for their work or not and regardless of what media they published in. Maybe you're reading this and thinking of extra categories and definitions that need to be included in the bill. If so, great: now would be the perfect time to speak out. That way, we can get a federal shield law that will give news gatherers the strongest protections possible. The last few years has been a really dark Dark Age for the press. Let's free Josh Wolf and get a free press, while we're at it.