The Omniscient Eye

Can Journalists Break the Law?

In the movies, television, and comics, journalists are often shown obviously breaking the law to get the story. Is this allowed in real life? Will the cops look the other way at your breaking and entering if it helps stop the world-dominating plans of EvilCo? Are there any loopholes or historical precedents that PC journalists could use?
      --S. Marsh, Editor of a Major Online Gaming Magazine

If the question is "what sort of protection does a reporter get when breaking the law," then the answer is simple enough that this could be the shortest Pyramid column on record: Bupkis. None, nada, zip.

You see, one of the implications of this whole "freedom of speech" thing that we operate under in the United States is that anyone can be a reporter. Not just become a reporter -- be one, right now. Anyone can cover a story, write up the result and publish it, and enjoy exactly the same status as Joe Mildmannered, crusading journalist at the Daily Nabob. In fact, these days many bloggers -- completely self-published on the Web -- are getting press credentials (really just passes to specific events, with significance only to the organizers of those events) and are even covering events in Iraq.

What makes a "real" reporter -- a working journalist -- is a complex web of reputation and contacts; they're kept in the loop because they're known to be actual publications which will follow through and publish the resulting stories. "Real" journalists . . .

This article originally appeared in the second volume of Pyramid. See the current Pyramid website for more information.

Article publication date: July 16, 2004

Copyright © 2004 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to