The blogosphere has been atwitter about a blogger who wanted her un-sourced ‘comments’ and denigration of a businessman to be protected under Oregon’s ‘shield laws’ — designed to stop legitimate news media from being compelled to reveal their sources.
By far the best comment I’ve read about it was from Forbes’ Kashmir Hill in her article: Why An Investment Firm Was Awarded $2.5 Million After Being Defamed By Blogger: “This is not the work of a journalist, but the work of someone intent on destroying reputations.”
Hill does what I try to do: go to the source. In this case, arguing the question of whether blogger = journalist, she talks to the plaintiff/defamee, and directs us to the judge’s legal opinion which spells out his thinking and his reasons for discounting hyperbolic blogger Crystal Cox’s claim to be ‘a journalist’. (You can download it here as a PDF and read it for yourself.)
Here’s what Kashmir Hill highlights as the key section from US District Judge Marco A. Hernandez’s opinion. It does it for me:
Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist.
For example, there is no evidence of
(1) any education in journalism;
(2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity;
(3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest;
(4) keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted;
(5) mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources;
(6) creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others; or
(7) contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story.
Without evidence of this nature, defendant is not “media.”
#3 ‘proof of adherence to journalistic standards’ is a real pitfall for some of those bloggers whose self-regard knows few limitations.
Also worth a read on the issues: Mathew Ingam at GigOm: If we are all journalists, should we all be protected?
Suffice to say I don’t buy the idea that “New media tools like blogs and social networks … allow anyone with a smartphone or Twitter account to become a journalist — whether they think of themselves as one or not.”
Oh no they don’t. Refer to Hernandez’s 7 points above.