Wednesday, February 14, 2007

who is a journalist?

Texas might be giving special privileges to journalists. But the state gets to decide who is or isn't a journalist. That's not a good idea. The state shouldn't get to decide that.

A few years ago I took souvenir photo's for tourists in 6th street bars and along 6th street in Austin. Sometimes the cops would try to enforce a sidewalk vendor law that they claimed meant you had to have a license to take photo's on the street. But the city only gave a vendor license for a fixed location on a corner, I walked the sidewalks from bar to bar.

But if I'd had an assignment from the local newspaper to take freelance photo's along 6th street I would not have needed city permission. What's the difference? In one case I'm hired by a person to take pictures, in the other case I'm hired by a person who worked for the Statesman to take pictures.

The only difference is that the city approved of one employer but not of the other.

It seemed to me this was an obvious 1st amendment violation. The City Attorney wouldn't return phone calls about it. The ACLU said that think about defending me if I got arrested.

If the government gives special privileges to approved newspapers then it gives them pause before they criticize the hand that feeds them. The government should not be allowed to determine who is or isn't a journalist.

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