Sample Email and Talking Points Courtesy SPJ

When crafting your message to your two senators, we encourage you to be brief and communicate in your own words. Below we have some suggestions for key points, a sample email, and possible messages to send out on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Key points

1. The recent spying on Associated Press reporters demonstrates the need for a check on executive agencies.
2. A federal shield law provides judicial review to prevent unrestrained power of executive agencies to snoop on reporters’ sources, including members of Congress.
3. A shield law would not hide terrorists or threaten national security. It’s a qualified privilege for journalists, not absolute.
4. We can reach agreement on the finer points of the law — to agree on something that makes sense — just like we’ve done in 49 states and in D.C.

Sample email

Dear Sen. Jones,

I am writing to you today to urge your support of a federal shield law, recently introduced as the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 (H.R. 1962 and S. 987).

As a journalist and a registered voter, I believe it is critical that we enact a federal shield law now to protect journalists’ confidential sources and the public’s right to hold its government accountable. While 49 states and the District of Columbia currently have some sort of shield protections, such a law does not exist at the federal level and its absence jeopardizes the ability of the press to expose problems in society.

A shield law protects checks and balances, as well, providing independent oversight on executive action by requiring judiciary opinions on subpoenas. We cannot allow one branch of government unrestrained, unchecked power. In recent events, The Associated Press had no notice of the DOJ’s records demand and did not have the opportunity to challenge it in court. As a result, the subpoena was so broad in scope that the DOJ obtained information that had nothing to do with the leaks in question, including reporters’ interviews with members of Congress.

Journalists aren’t looking for a free pass, nor is that the purpose of a federal shield law. Instead, the Free Flow of Information Act provides a qualified privilege for us to protect confidential sources, so that whistleblowers will continue to come forward. Without such a law, the sources that help hold the government accountable will stop talking. We can reach agreement on the finer points of the law to balance the rights of journalists with the nation’s needs, such as protecting national security.

Ultimately, we as a nation must stop incidents like The Associated Press faced with the DOJ; Journalists must be allowed to do their jobs without fear of being forced to disclose confidential sources; and we must protect the public’s right to know. Help us bring this very important issue to the forefront of Congress by showing your support of the federal shield law today.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe
Affiliation
City, State

Sample social media posts

1. A new federal shield law (H.R. 1962 / S. 987), the Free Flow of Information Act, has been introduced into legislation. Learn more:
http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action

2. The Free Flow of Information Act would preserve the public’s right to know by protecting the identities of journalists’ confidential sources. http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action

3. We need a Federal Shield Law now! says RTDNA's Mike Cavender. http://rtdna.org/article/we_need_a_federal_shield_law_now

4. RTDNA's Mike Cavender speaks out on gov't spying. http://rtdna.org/article/assault_on_first_amendment_needs_to_stop

5. Journalists rely on confidential sources for investigative reporting. Help protect that right; support a federal shield law. http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action

6. Show your support for a federal shield law by contacting your senators today!
http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action

7. A federal shield law not only protects journalists but it protects the public’s right to know. http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action

8. Protection of the public’s right to know is the obligation of Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between. http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action

9. Atty General Eric Holder reaffirmed the administration’s support for a federal shield law. Contact your U.S. senators today to show your support!

10. Unlike most state legislatures, Congress provides NO PROTECTION for journalists’ confidential sources. A federal shield law would.

11. Learn more about the proposed federal shield law today.
http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action

12. The Ninth Circuit wrote, “The free press is the guardian of the public interest, and the indep. judiciary is the guardian of the free press.”

13. When journalists have the chance to challenge a subpoena to reveal sources in federal court, they have little recourse w/o a shield law.

14. Whistleblowers may not come forward if their identities could be revealed by journalists in court.
http://www.rtdna.org/article/rtdna_member_call_to_action