How to tattle on the government

The passage of a new "shield law" aimed at protecting Vermont journalists from being forced to divulge their confidential sources is being hailed as a win for the media and the First Amendment, as it should be.

In reality, it's a win for the public who can now speak freely with journalists without fear of what they say being dragged into a court by the government.

VTDigger reports that the law was lobbied for by Paul Heintz, of Seven Days, on behalf of the Vermont Press Association. We thank Heintz for his efforts and would like to share part of the statement he made at Governor Phil Scott's signing of the bill.

"Now that this bill has become a law, I would like to implore Vermonters to reach out to reporters with stories that need to be told," Heintz said. "If you face injustice at the hand of a powerful person or institution, let us know. If you're a potential whistleblower, get in touch, and blow that whistle."

If you'd like to blow the whistle on something locally, we can be reached at 802-447-7567. Dial 1 when you hear the answering message. You can also email a specific reporter or our general account at If you're worried about the government listening in on your phone calls and reading your emails you can risk the U.S. Postal Service and send mail to 425 Main St., Bennington, Vt., 05201. We're pretty sure the government isn't reading our letters, at least.

How we handle information given to us depends on the circumstances. Every situation is unique and not every tip we gets leads us somewhere. We protect the identities of confidential sources.

According to the New York Times, we may have a president who thinks journalists should be imprisoned for reporting classified information that was leaked to them. That is to say we may have a president who fundamentally doesn't understand, and/or actively opposes, the core elements necessary to a free society, that being government transparency and freedom of the press.

Those who agree with his alleged sentiments view members of the media as villains with political agendas of their own who hide their un-American activities behind the First Amendment. These people feel the media should be offered no protection from the government and should submit to its will whenever those in power don't like what they see and read.

It's a rather baffling point of view for a free American to hold and we suspect that for many it shifts along with the political winds.

In Vermont, at least, the government appeared to welcome the shield law.

VTDigger quotes Scott as saying "This protection enables sources, from whistleblowers to victims of a crime, to feel confident in their ability to speak freely with the press, ensuring accountability and giving the vulnerable a voice without fear."

The news media, be it conservative or liberal, is the eyes of the public. Beware those trying to blind you.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

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