what a bill is and what a journalist is

Not having been brought up in the United States, I get rather confused by bills and houses and senates and all this, so I had to ask Scott what it actually meant that a bill was “approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee“. Does that mean it’s now the law? (Disclaimer: I doubt we learnt that kind of detailed stuff about US governance in school in Norway, and if we did, well, I forgot it.)

Scott kindly explained the situation by finding me this song, I’m Just a Bill (update: that was the lyrics, YouTube version below thanks to Steven!), which apparently is taught in American primary schools. Or grammar schools or whatever they’re called. Impressively enough, it both has a catchy tune and explains what bills are and how they become laws quite beautifully. I love it.

This bill, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2006, is intended to encourage the free flow of information by, among other things, allowing journalists to shield their sources. It’s of interest to bloggers, because it provides a definition of journalist that is broader than previously:

a person who, for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing news or information as a salaried employee of or independent contractor for a newspaper, news journal, news agency, book publisher, press association, wire service, radio or television station, network, magazine, Internet news service, or other professional medium or agency which has as one of its regular functions the processing and researching of news or information intended for dissemination to the public. (PDF)

It’s that “for financial gain or livelihood” that gets people. The journalists are worried about this because it doesn’t include, say, student journalists. Bloggers are worried about it because what about bloggers who don’t receive financial gain from their blogs?

I think that this particular bill is up to here in the song:

Now I go to the House of Representatives, and they vote on me.
Boy: If they vote yes, what happens?
Bill: Then I go to the Senate and the whole thing starts all over again.
Boy: Oh no!
Bill: Oh yes!

And then to the White House. Could take a while. But isn’t that a great song?

10. August 2007 by Jill

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