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A free press for years has been one of the cornerstones of the American way of life.

During our nation's history, journalists, through research and diligence, have aided the cause of the American people by acting as a watchdog to the governmental branches - executive, legislative and judicial.

As a "fourth branch" in a system of checks and balances, journalists have improved society as a whole. Muckraker Upton Sinclair wrote a book called "The Jungle" exposing unsanitary and harmful conditions in the meatpacking industry during the industrial revolution. Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, with the help of the most famous confidential source of all time, cracked open one of the most involved political scandals in American history.

But journalists are only as good as their sources, and sometimes sources have to be protected to obtain the most useful information that, in turn, is the most beneficial to society. Neither the muckrakers or Woodward and Bernstein would have broken their stories without protected sources.

The ability to protect a source is a journalist's most important asset, an asset that should be protected by federal law - as it is already protected by state law in 49 states.

The U.S. Senate just shot down a bill, the Free Flow of Information Act, S.B. 2035, which would provide a federal law allowing journalists to protect confidential sources without of fear of prosecution or imprisonment. The act, also known as the Shield bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in October but failed in the Senate by a vote of 51 yeas to 43 nays.

Among those voting against the bill were both Georgia senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.

Do senators Chambliss and Isakson disagree with the notion of a free press?

What crimes, shortcomings or cover ups will go unnoticed if sources are afraid to come forward?

To protect the American way of life as we know it, a federal Shield Law has to be in place.