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Josh Stearns of Free Press asks "who's a journalist?" in a paper on the non-profit group's site: "When our founders drafted the Bill of Rights, the U.S. did not have a professional press. The publishers it did have — mostly pamphleteers — had more in common with today’s bloggers than with journalists at the New York Times," he writes. "Today’s pamphleteers use iPhones and blogs instead of carbon paper, but their acts of journalism still deserve protection."

The National Press Club will webcast its panel discussion tonight on government agencies that require reporters to conduct interviews via their press offices. Details here. From the announcement: "Such restrictions have increasingly become the rule in federal agencies, but they were not in place so widely a few decades ago." PIOs maintain that the controls "ensure that the press gets accurate information and the department or agency’s message is unified and coherent."

Who deserves protection under journalism shield laws? Once it was someone who worked for a media organization, or was published by one. Now that the Internet has made everyone a publisher, the lines are blurred, Jeffrey P. Hermes writes: "When considering whether to grant legal protection for the gathering and dissemination of information, the question should not be the person performing those acts, i.e., 'who is a journalist?,' but 'is this an act of journalism?'"

As Congress reviews treatment of conservative groups seeking non-profit tax status, journalism organizations face similar hurdles with little public attention: "This spring, a consortium of respected philanthropic groups, headed by the Council on Foundations and the Knight Foundation, found that the IRS appears to be slow-walking the applications for tax-exempt status by journalism groups emerging to fill the void left by the dramatic contraction of the news media."

Last week's announcement that Johns Hopkins University is disbanding its graduate science-writing program may signal a broader decline, Carl Straumsheim writes for Inside Higher Ed: "Although not all institutions … report a decline in the number of applications, one trend appears to be developing: Programs that exist independently seem to be faring worse than those that can draw on the resources of a full-fledged journalism school."

Writers sued for libel in English and Welsh courts will find it easier to defend themselves under a law passed last week, Sarah Lyall reports in the New York Times. The measure restricts "libel tourism" and enacts protection for "responsible publication on matters of public interest." But it does little to address costs, Daniel Cressey writes in Nature. Also: Nick Cohen honors Simon Singh for his role in the change.

No less an authority than Poynter's Roy Peter Clark thinks the plagiarism police need to rope it in. In a post that his bosses disowned via an editor's note, Clark writes: "Too scrupulous an ethic on plagiarism will lead, I fear, to witch hunts. Plagiarism — along with its cousin fabrication — should be policed. The punishments for wrongdoers should be harsh. But the word plagiarism should be confined to clear-cut cases of literary and journalistic fraud."