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Bloggers Not Journalists, Federal Judge Rules

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the occupation-foole dept.

The Courts 353

New submitter squideatingdough writes "On InfoWorld, Robert X. Cringely covers a recent case of a blogger accused of libel and defamation. The federal judge ruled that journalists warrant more protection from libel suits than bloggers, but it is obvious from the article that bloggers' rights can vary by state, depending on the 'shield laws' in force." Reader blindseer adds a link to this AP article on the case, and asks "If the government can define who is part of the press, and therefore gets First Amendment protections, then where does that place the freedom of the press?" The slippery slope is a steep one; even some relatively open societies require licensure for journalists (visiting ones included) with predictable results. (And the Labour Party would like to see a similar system in the UK.)

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It's Not ALL Bloggers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304240)

It's just THIS blogger does not rise to the level of journalist.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (4, Interesting)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304350)

The decision does raise an interesting question, though - what makes you a journalist? Is it having an account on WordPress or Blogger? What about aggregators like Drudge and Slashdot? We see journalists espousing opinions all the time, frequently controversial - your local rag's editorial page is just such a place. I love the shades of grey.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (4, Interesting)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304660)

-Standard IANAL disclaimer-

I am pretty sure that "libel" and "defamation" are separate from mere "opinion".

examples (not necessarily indicative of my own personal thoughts on the subject)

Opinion: I think Obama is a mediocre president who is failing in the campaign promises he made as well as failing to live up to the ideals he espouses.

Libel: Obama is an antichrist muslim terrorist. He lied, cheated, and stole in order to get elected. He did so purposely to steal money and use his power to help himself and his friends get ahead at the expense of the common guy. He's an asshole, a racist, and a hatemonger.

Now, discussing a position with as much power and as much of a public persona as the presidency of course, there is more leeway before slander laws come into effect. I'm pretty sure that the bar is set lower for discussing regular people, especially if the potential slanderer is doing so in a medium that may carry some legitimacy.

apparently, though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304774)

Apparently, though, the libel there would be what one uses to describe a journalist. For Fox News, anyway.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304888)

The decision does raise an interesting question, though - what makes you a journalist?

It's the wrong question to ask. The right question is to consider each publication individually and ask whether it was journalistic. Someone's history or credentials should have no bearing on how they're protected by law. What should determine whether the law protects you is whether you follow journalistic standards in the publication of the story or article. Do you confirm the facts you present? Are you upfront about any bias you might have, including advertising revenue you receive? Even stuff as simple as whether your articles are checked for spelling and grammar mistakes. But the important part is that the standard is applied to work rather than to people. It shouldn't matter if someone has written Pulitzer-level work in the past...if they take shortcuts and don't adhere to a Journalistic standard, they shouldn't receive protection for that work. Likewise, if someone with a history of shoddy work produces something that meets the criteria, that work should be protected.

Asking what makes you a journalist is akin to making an ad hominem argument. Being a journalist is reflected in your work, so you need only examine the work to determine when someone is a journalist.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (0)

toastar (573882) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304544)

Listen, if you think you can represent yourself in court, your probably not a real journalist.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304672)

Listen, if you think you can represent yourself in court, your probably not a real journalist.

Likewise, if you think "your" means "you are", you're probably not a real journalist.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304574)

This blogger does not rise to the level of journalist, because she fails to meet this list of qualifications we expect traditional journalists to have. Very few other bloggers have those same qualifications, so they can expect to not be treated as journalists by this court.

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."

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (5, Insightful)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304654)

(3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as ... fact-checking ...

That rules out most professional journalists.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (0)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304682)

This blogger does not rise to the level of journalist, because she fails to meet this list of qualifications we expect traditional journalists to have.

Are you going to try and say that most "journalists" on TV do meet those qualifications? I would imagine that if this were the threshold, most of Fox News would be sued into oblivion.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304818)

It's expected that most journalists meet most (or all) of those qualifications. If they don't, then it's a problem with auditing (eg, there is none) and not a fault of the definition itself.

Not that I disagree with the spirit of your post.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (3, Insightful)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304704)

(1) and (2) represent very problematic views about how you should be taught and sponsored by a filtering agent before you can have your say. (3), (4), (5), (6) and (7) are moronic wildcards based on technicalities that most "recognized news entities" from (1) disregard completely. I didn't read the original "article" and maybe it was just something along the lines of "yo dawg, I heard he lieks fags so fag his ass lol he suckz0rz b/c he's fag so fag he licks balls" and therefore borderline indefensible. Still, the reasons provided for stripping someone of a contitutional right seem, at the very least, short sighted, and at the most, incredibly idiotic.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (-1, Flamebait)

kryliss (72493) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304756)

Well if those qualifications are what's needed that pretty much gets rid of anyone at Fox News.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304908)

Yet, CNN often runs blogs and tweets on the air. If an established news organization can use the content from blogs on the air, doesn't that change things a bit?

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304910)

A lot of company directors don't have business qualifications, should we ban them too?

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (3, Interesting)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304950)

This blogger does not rise to the level of journalist, because she fails to meet this list of qualifications we expect traditional journalists to have.

When the Constitution was written, there were hundreds of small presses producing hundreds of often one-page fliers/newsletters/libels daily. This was the environment of the day, and this was the press whose freedoms were not to be infringed upon.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304658)

OF COURSE it's all bloggers. Our legal system operates on precedents; well, here's a precedent. Expect every lawyer with an axe to grind against a blogger to cite this case. Expect some lawyer out there to at least float this against a freelance journalist published in a 'real' publication.

Re:It's Not ALL Bloggers (3, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304760)

Having read part of the blog, this blogger needs a course in basic writing. It may be hard to conceive, but it reads WORSE than many of the summaries here on slashdot.

If instead of writing like a teenager posting on facebook or myspace, she had written articles that actually told the who, what, when, where, why, and how in a coherent fashion, she may have been able to avoid being seen as "not a journalist."

If you're going to call someone a liar, whether it's in a blog or in print or on radio or TV, there's a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. The right way, you make your case point by point, you present your evidence in a fashion that is easily digested by the reader, and you present your conclusion that the person lied based solely on that evidence. Not speculation. Not "Did so-and-so lie?" That's just innuendo., and not protected.

The judgment also points out that it helps if you can also show that you contacted the person before publishing, either to get their side of the story or to confirm the actual events.

What Cox did was called "yellow journalism", originally known for the colour of the cheap paper the scandal rags were printed on well before they went main-stream at your local grocery checkout counter.

Bogus (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304246)

Allowing a government determine who is and is not the press is allowing the fox to guard the chicken coop.

Re:Bogus (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304358)

And when we have a Judge to decide who is a journalist or not - who is to decide if the judge is valid or not?

Re:Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304436)

"... who is to decide if the judge is valid or not?"

Anyone who loves freedom.

Re:Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304450)

Federal judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress. It's pretty well defined. The Constitution does not define who gets to be a journalist; it just mentions "Congress shall make no law ... infringing on the freedom of the press". Nothing in here about defining who the press is and certainly nothing to imply that you have to go to J-School or be a member of the "mainstream" media.

IMO this case needs to be taken up by the ACLU (and/or any other competent rights-defending group) to be smacked down in appeal.

Re:Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304722)

"Federal judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress." So does that mean he doesn't need to know the law?

Re:Bogus (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304744)

IMO this case needs to be taken up by the ACLU (and/or any other competent rights-defending group) to be smacked down in appeal.

Oh. You mean the way ex post facto laws have been smacked down on appeal? You mean the way interstate commerce, interpreted as intrastate commerce, was smacked down on appeal? You mean the way searches without probable cause within 150 miles of the US border were smacked down on appeal? You mean the way the numerous infringements of the rights guaranteed by the second amendment, such as licensing, ownership, carrying... were smacked down on appeal? You mean the way the government's reading of our email and other private correspondence was smacked down on appeal? I look forward to this "smacked down on appeal." [grabs popcorn]

Re:Bogus (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304536)

The judge.

Re:Bogus (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304840)

This is the problem with federal judges. They are appointed and are there until they quit or die. They are above the law.... no wait... They are the LAW! prepare to be judged!

those damn kids (5, Insightful)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304442)

Hell, Journalists aren't reporters these days.
Reporters aren't reporters.

They just regurgitate corporate press releases without any critical analysis. Since it no longer pays to report in the public interest, we're left with PR whores chasing $$$, opponents with an axe to grind and obsessed amateur sleuths on the web.

Re:Bogus (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304444)

Which is why it's being decided by a judge.

Re:Bogus (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304698)

Where does it say that a judge should be able to determine who is and isn't a journalist?

Re:Bogus (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304898)

Because judges are, in the US system, the final arbiter absent any other definition. If some other definition is clearly stated in the law judges can apply that, but absent clarity, they essentially define the rules until congress decides it wants to do something.

That isn't the only system in the world though. Other countries can basically kick a decision up to the legislature in some fashion (sort of like law lords in the UK, but even more direct than that). It actually does make a lot of sense that if 'the press' has special rules applied to it that you clearly define what counts as 'the press'. That also seems like one of those things that would float a lot with time so putting it in a constitution is probably a bad idea (assuming you think constitutions are a good idea at all).

Libel and defamation are serious business, as is phone hacking. Journalists may be shielded from the former if they, in good faith, thought the information they had was legitimate (this is to separate the journalist from the source). But 'the press' isn't allowed to hack your phone or break into your house to get a story either so they are protected from the source of information, but only so much. That seems like you're walking a fine line between a source being 'the press' and a journalist being 'the press', which is why it needs clarification at all, and that seems like a job for parliament (or in the US case congress).

Re:Bogus (2)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304914)

In the US, judges determine everything.

Article 3 of the Constitution says so.

The legislature creates law, the executive enforces/executes it and the judiciary interprets it.

Exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304966)

This is, of course, the entire premise behind every government that has ever existed: there can be nobody "above" government, otherwise it wouldn't be government at all. The business of government is unaccountable by definition to the people they rule over.

The objective definition of government (the only one) is the organization holding the unique "right" (defined by the government in question of course) to employ physical force as a business model. Logically, you cannot influence or control such an entity from the bottom up, only from the top down.

Hacker's Creed (4, Insightful)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304256)

Knowledge is power but he who controls the information reigns supreme.

Re:Hacker's Creed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304396)

That's right. Blogging has called mainstream media out. It has been hiding behind a shroud of false freedom for ages. When money no longer drives the views of information dissemination, the wealthy (including the lawmakers, politicians, and businessmen), will do everything in their power to stonewall it.

If not the government, then who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304272)

Should it be the people? Then everyone can claim to be part of the press?
How about corporations? Lets have huge entry fees to be part of the press, and even then you have to pass the corporation's political/agenda test...

Face it, every option is fucked up.

Re:If not the government, then who? (4, Insightful)

SeekerDarksteel (896422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304516)

How about we don't have special rights for special people? Everyone gets the same rights regardless of whether or not the government or someone else feels like a particular class of people shouldn't have them.

Re:If not the government, then who? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304636)

The press is an item. Everyone who owns one has freedom of the press. Computers are the modern equivalent of the press, they serve the same fundamental purpose, disseminating information. So everyone who owns a computer has freedom of the press.

Re:If not the government, then who? (4, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304814)

That's a really interesting point. In the minds of the Framers, the press was literally that - the printing press, an object. Certainly Thomas Paine (who published Common Sense anonymously) didn't have a journalism degree, nor ascribe to the other journalistic criteria the judge in this case is enumerating.

They have it backwards (5, Informative)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304278)

Journalists don't have more rights than anyone else. Freedom of the press means that all people are allowed to publish their opinions. Thomas Paine was a blogger, not a journalist.

Re:They have it backwards (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304304)

Yes, but the issue is can you offer protection to your sources?

Re:They have it backwards (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304506)

Yes, but the issue is can you offer protection to your sources?

You can always protect your sources - though it may mean spending time in the cooler ...

However, doing so, and then getting thrown in jail for it, pretty much establishes you as a journalist in the eyes of the public, as journalists WILL go to jail rather than give up a source. So, you get your street cred, you then get access to better sources, and the next time there's no question but that you are a journalist.

Re:They have it backwards (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304670)

Indeed. It's "Freedom of the Press", not "Freedom of Journalists". The Press is used for tabloids and fiction as well as journalism.

Re:They have it backwards (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304798)

Journalists don't have more rights than anyone else. Freedom of the press means that all people are allowed to publish their opinions. Thomas Paine was a blogger, not a journalist.

You left something out, though. Freedom of the press means that the government cannot preemptively prevent you from publishin something. It does not say that, once you have publiashed something that attacks someone, you cannot be sued for libel. The 1st Amendment says you can say whatever you want, but don't expect any protection from the government if you can't back up what you publish.

reporters report the news (1, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304280)

most of the bloggers write up a summary with a link, this is not journalism. filming news happening and reporting on what is happening is called reporting the news.

in this case the blogger deserves what they got. the news media goes out of it's way to say alleged and not call people thieves until they get convicted in a court of law. which is the way it should be

Re:reporters report the news (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304342)

Most Journalist only write up a summary of events.

Re:reporters report the news (0)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304356)

most of the bloggers write up a summary with a link, this is not journalism

And negroes only qualify as 2/3 human, too!

Also, your newsletter is late this month.

Re:reporters report the news (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304390)

most of the bloggers write up a summary with a link, this is not journalism. filming news happening and reporting on what is happening is called reporting the news.

in this case the blogger deserves what they got. the news media goes out of it's way to say alleged and not call people thieves until they get convicted in a court of law. which is the way it should be

Then you're arguing that journalists do not need more protection than bloggers since journalists do the right thing anyway?

Re:reporters report the news (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304738)

the news media goes out of it's way to say alleged and not call people thieves until they get convicted in a court of law. which is the way it should be

This is the only part of your statement that should be agreed upon. The rest of it is nonsense.

What is a journalist? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304282)

I don't know how I feel about the precedent this sets for "what a journalist is," but I'm definitely not weeping for this SEO-ing scumbag:

Hernandez said Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. She had no journalism education, credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story.

Cox said she considered herself a journalist, producing more than 400 blogs over the past five years, with a proprietary technique to get her postings on the top of search engines where they get the most notice.

Re:What is a journalist? (4, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304776)

While the defendant is definitely a scumbag, I can't agree with the "standards" for being called a journalist outlined. Why do I need to go to school to be a journalist? Why do I need to toe the line to be hired by a news organization to be a journalist? And if checking the facts or getting both sides of the story are requirements for being journalists, most of the people on TV definitely can't be called journalists, and therefore don't deserve the protections of journalists.

Julian Assange (0)

Spectre (1685) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304284)

<naive innocence>
Surely this isn't being done just so there is a nice precedent for when the US finally gets its hands on Julian Assange ...
</naive innocence>

Re:Julian Assange (3, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304310)

assange releases real evidence. he doesn't call people names without anything to back it up

Re:Julian Assange (1)

Spectre (1685) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304548)

assange releases real evidence. he doesn't call people names without anything to back it up

Yes ... and now there is more leverage to get sources for where that evidence came from ...

Re:Julian Assange (-1, Flamebait)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304318)

You think this has to do with JA? You are an idiot.

Re:Julian Assange (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304846)

You think this has to do with JA? You are an idiot.

To think that this decision had nothing to do with him is even more idiotic. This judge, I can assure you, was warned against what might happen to JA's case if the decision went the other way. Our government isn't going to let some nobody judge throw away their case against someone they're trying to paint as a terrorist.

As usual, bad summary. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304286)

The first ammendment of the US Constitution does not protect anyone from libel accusations by a citizen. It protects all citizens from governmental response to criticism of the government.

Print your blog posts (1)

ebunga (95613) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304298)

Print out your blog posts and leave copies in some public space that allows such things. Congratulations, you're now a journalist working for a press organization and not a blogger.

Re:Print your blog posts (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304372)

But then how will people click on their links?

Limit oneself to the (politely stated) truth (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304314)

and one won't have to deal w/ lawsuits like this.

Journalist scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304316)

The Labour party call is part of a huge controversy in the UK right now over newspapers hacking into cellphones in some quite obscene ways (e.g. they "picked up" messages left by a murdered girl, causing her parents to believe she was still alive).

Freedom of the Press is important but that freedom has been abused so badly over the last 10 years that it's tough to call on where we go from here.

(Cue a bunch of absolutist drivel.)

Re:Journalist scum (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304810)

Not really. It's not hard to say that hacking into someone's private voice mail isn't protected any more than breaking into someone's house would be.

Close your blog. Start a Journal. (2)

GiantRobotMonster (1159813) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304320)

Of course I am a Journalist. Here is my Journal.

But seriously, from TFA:

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."

I don't see a lot of news media ticking many of those boxes these days, apart from #2.

Re:Close your blog. Start a Journal. (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304630)

Don't be silly, there's loads of "contacting 'the other side' to get both sides of a story", no matter how valid or useful their point of view might be and, if done properly, without allowing any kind of response after the 'other side' has had their say.

Re:Close your blog. Start a Journal. (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304720)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Funny, I don't see any of those seven criteria listed in what's supposed to be the guidebook for these things...

Re:Close your blog. Start a Journal. (1)

slashdotresearch_mj (2463842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304786)

"Without evidence of this nature, defendant is not "media"." Well now if that had ended with not "journalist" maybe, not "news" maaaybe. But not media? Defendant is definitely "media". Libel, broke, and probably super sad media apparently, but still media, distributing content.

Medium of communication not a profession (2)

gearsmithy (1869466) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304326)

"Freedom of the press" refers to the actual printing press machine, not the profession of journalism. This person's blog is, in effect, a modern form of the printing press. Not sure how a judge could miss that.

Re:Medium of communication not a profession (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304684)

Intentional misunderstanding.

Dismantling the Bill of Rights Phase X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304338)

What phase are we on now? We're well past phase 1 for sure. We're now making rights that are not government granted (they exist outside of, and beyond government) "tiered" so that "some are created more equal than others..." Sounds familiar, no?

Definition of a journalist (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304352)

You're not a journalist unless you work for a print newspaper that's about to lay you off and go bankrupt.

Re:Definition of a journalist (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304676)

No, no, no

You're not a journalist unless you're a corporate citizen who owns the media (broadcast, net, print, whatever) by which information is delivered.

The constitution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304370)

Fuck It

Equality before the law (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304384)

So in America you only have more rigths to free speech if you are a journalist? It doesn't fit into the principle of 'equality before the law'.

Re:Equality before the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304694)

Additionally, you don't have rights to free speech even if you are a journalist. That just didn't come up here because it wasn't relevant.

to shut you all up (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304432)

A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a Montana woman sued for defamation was not a journalist when she posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally during a bankruptcy case, a decision with implications for bloggers around the country.

the government, including the judges want to shut you up. Shut up and do as you told, consumer number (*insert social security code here*).

Judges like to shut people up, by the way, listen to this starting at minute 19 [noxsolutions.com]

The case is a bit different... (5, Informative)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304454)

The headline is "bloggers are not journalists", but there is a bit more to the case.

Mrs. Cox wrote stuff in her blog that would be clearly libel if untrue, and clearly something someone wouldn't want people to hear if it was true. So she is in court for libel, and the defence against libel would be that she wrote the truth.

Now she says that what she wrote is based on information from a source which she wants to protect. If someone tried to sue the unknown source for libel, then shield laws would protect or not protect that person, and whether she is a journalist or a blogger would make a difference. But it isn't the source who is sued, it is Mrs. Cox herself. And to defend herself, she would need to have evidence that she wrote the truth. If her only evidence is a witness who doesn't want to come forward, and whom she doesn't want to present to the court, then she has no evidence that the statements she wrote are true.

Where shield laws would make a difference: If an employee gives a blogger or a journalist evidence that a company does something wrong. The blogger or journalist now _has_ the evidence. The company wants to take revenge and fire the employee. But here the situation is different; she can protect her witness all she wants, but if she does, she will go down for libel.

Re:The case is a bit different... (4, Funny)

binary paladin (684759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304638)

Wait a minute? Are you saying that the situation is more complex and reasonable than the sensationalist headline implies?

No. Not here. You sir must be mistaken.

(Thanks for your reasonable input.)

Re:The case is a bit different... (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304874)

Mrs. Cox wrote stuff in her blog that would be clearly libel if untrue, and clearly something someone wouldn't want people to hear if it was true. So she is in court for libel, and the defence against libel would be that she wrote the truth.

No, the defense against libel would be to have it proven that what she wrote was untrue.

And no, she shouldn't go down for libel, unless it can be proven that what she wrote was untrue, and that she knew it was untrue before writing it. Simply saying, "That's libel!" should NOT be justification enough to require someone to reveal their sources.

Re:The case is a bit different... (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304926)

Mrs. Cox wrote stuff in her blog that would be clearly libel if untrue, and clearly something someone wouldn't want people to hear if it was true. So she is in court for libel, and the defence against libel would be that she wrote the truth.

In addition, in at least some jurisdictions the truth is not an absolute defense against libel. For instance, publishing a truthful newspaper headline of "John Smith has HIV" may be libelous if John Smith is just some random private citizen (this was especially true back when doing this would also be declaring that John Smith was gay).

Re:The case is a bit different... (3, Interesting)

dhammond (953711) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304954)

Thank you for actually bringing up the facts of the case!

Of course, the knee-jerk response to "bloggers are not journalists!" is "some of them are!" The judge did not say that you can't be a blogger and a journalist at the same time. He gave seven examples of evidence that the defendant could have provided to prove that she was a journalist, and apparently she provided none of them. The article seems alarmist in suggesting that she would have had to provide all 7. Even someone that did not go to journalism school and is not employed by a major news outlet should be able to provide "(3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest" if they are going to blast someone in public and then not produce any evidence.

My, I'm all offer ahving an (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304462)

official journalist status. Like a Dr.

So to call your self a journalist you must:
Check sources
Make reasonable effort to remove bias
Investigate claims.

Make that journalism.
No, I am not for only journals get free speech protection.

And of course, the medium is irrelevant.

If bloggers are not journalists, (1)

MoronGames (632186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304504)

If that judge does not acknowledge bloggers as journalists, I do not recognize him as a judge. What an idiot.

So what? (1)

booch (4157) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304570)

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, not of journalists. At the time it was written, "the press" meant "the printing press", not "people who write". So it means that people have the right to publish their ideas. It does not mean that certain people have the right to publish their ideas. So defining "journalist" should have no affect on First Amendment freedoms.

Of course, if judges are too stupid or corrupt to realize this, then we're all screwed.

How to fast-track a Bill... (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304576)

...insert a clause requiring licensing for journalists with the promise of protection - if you behave yourself.

Read: don't criticise Government, and you're fine. Don't insult anyone with connections, and you'll be fine. Misbehave and your licence is revoked.

The Government of the UK does this already. They have the power (and have exercised it [edgemediatv.com] ) to revoke broadcasting licenses for anyone who goes public on a broadcast medium (TV, radio, newspaper) with information that can damage Government or those with connections. The Tunisian Government have also done this, only far more visibly [tunisia-live.net] .

Fortunately, there are those publications that are not afraid [ukcolumn.org] to present the facts as they emerge. The example given here is one that has a guaranteed readership of 1500 in one building alone (I do read the Column regularly, and have the desk numbers of the editors on speed dial).

To give Government the sweeping legal power to shut down blogs on the grounds of controlling information or dealing with accusations by those it has already referred to "amateur, unlicensed and unregulated journalist types", is one more nail in the coffin of public information awareness - without which we cannot apply checks and balances on Government abuses of the voting Public, we cannot apply legal arrests when the Government commits assaults, murder and genocides on what it considers to be enemies, both foreign and domestic, and we cannot correctly apply our power and obligation to vote out bad Government whether at Election time or interelection following a vote of "no confidence" or an impeachment.

Information is power. Information should not be the sole property of those with the legislative whip.

NYPD Credential Journalists (4, Informative)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304580)

Here in NYC, the NYPD already has a licensing program for "official press". If you start asking a cop tough questions, they're liable to ask for your license. They also get priority seating in courtrooms.

Next time... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304586)

Cox decided to forgo an attorney, relying on a number of Oregon state laws that protect people who have a legitimate interest in exposing corruption or corporate malfeasance.

Next time lawyer up, dumbass. Representing yourself in court is one of the single dumbest things you can do.

Re:Next time... (1)

soleblaze (628864) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304666)

Next time lawyer up, dumbass. Representing yourself in court is one of the single dumbest things you can do.

hah, yeah. Even lawyers refuse to represent themselves.

As usual, headline blows it out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304606)

A more accurate headline might be, "random non-lawyer person commits obvious libel and has a fool for a client". I don't see anything in TFA implying that case law has been made denying bloggers these protections when they conduct themselves as journalists. Getting a companyXsucks.com domain and posting libel on it is not the same as exposing well documented fraud on blogX.com.

Re:As usual, headline blows it out of proportion (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304922)

random non-lawyer person commits obvious libel

Care to point out the evidence that shows she committed libel?

Gov't defines Press . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304612)

Gov't defines Press . . . Always has, in the US at least. Ever heard of a Press Pass? Government parcel out Press Passes to those who it recognizes as Journalists. Not to every Dick that owns a Police Scanner.

I don't think Gov't should define the Press, only that it always has.

Re:Gov't defines Press . . . (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304942)

I'm sure that doesn't have anything to do with the fact that there's a finite number of seats in the White House Press Room.

When you need a license to practice free speech... (2, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304640)

... it is no longer free.

This judge fucked up. (2)

jcr (53032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304642)

The first amendment applies to all of us, not just journalists.

-jcr

Re:This judge fucked up. (2)

AcidPenguin9873 (911493) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304870)

So do libel laws. Did you read the article?

"Journalist" if one acts like a professional ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304652)

From the article: "He added that the shield law does not apply to civil actions for defamation."

So journalist or not she still would have been sued?

From the slashdot reader comments: "If the government can define who is part of the press, and therefore gets First Amendment protections, then where does that place the freedom of the press?"

Note that the first amendment protects your right to publish. It does not necessarily make you immune from all repercussions of what your write. There is nothing unconstitutional about suing newspapers for liable, defamation, etc. There may be a different level of evidence required for a newspaper vs a private citizen though. The question seems to be if a blogger does *not* act according to professional journalistic standards does a blogger get treated as a journalist or a private citizen making a public statement.

From the article: "Hernandez said Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. She had no journalism education, credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story."

Publishing does not necessarily make one a journalist. In the pre-internet era someone could write something and post it in a public forum (window, wall, light pole, etc), hand out their writing on the street, etc. Doing so did not make them a journalist. Simply being a blogger seems comparable. However if a blogger has had some training and acts like a journalistic professional then it seems the judge has left the door open to a blogger being recognized as a journalist.

Flame filled summary. (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304706)

Freedom of the Press and shield laws have never been absolute defenses against being an asshat. They're meant to protect the right to publish information and analysis, not personal attacks and character assassination.
 
When you read the article, and more importantly the judgment, you find the summary is (as usual) more inflammatory than factual and that Cringlely is spinning it quite heavily. The judge did not find that bloggers did not rate protection, but that Cox by conducting a deliberate campaign of defamation was not acting as a journalist and thus by extension was not protected as one.

Cities arresting press pass owners (3, Interesting)

soleblaze (628864) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304752)

I'd argue that even if you have that press badge and are considered a journalist they can still block what you have to say. The NYPD intentionally arrested 5 press badge carrying journalists when they evicted occupy wall street. The press were telling the NYPD that they have a press pass and a right to cover the story and the NYPD responded saying you don't have press freedoms here. When they tried to force the issue they were arrested. The LAPD also had a lottery limiting the amount of press members that could cover the occupyla eviction to 12.

You also hear a lot of press saying 'we're being told we can't cover this' by the police and abiding to it. The police are considering their actions to require the same selective reporting that wars do. I'm not sure if this has gone on a long time and it's the first time I've seen the press talk about it so openly, or if it's part of the militarization of the police departments that we've seen since 9/11.

I cautiously support "Journalist Licenses" (1)

intx13 (808988) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304826)

The protections given to journalists are not those of free speech - we already have those - but rather the shield laws that allow journalists to legally withhold information relating to the fact-gathering process. That's a weighty privilege afforded to few other professions and I don't think it should be handed out to every blogger or rag writer without compromising the court system and subpoenas.

I would cautiously support a "Journalist License" because I think it would more clearly define the rights of journalists and provide security and confidence to sources. I would insist on the following points.
  • - A Journalist License should be available to any journalist who meets a reasonable standard of fact-checking and professionalism in reporting, regardless of chosen media or corporate association (or lack thereof).
  • - A "Journalist License" must not be an impediment to the anonymous publication of information.
  • - The granting of a Journalist License must not include any personal investigation into the journalist.
  • - It must not be possible to cancel or invalidate a Journalist License. It may expire, but re-issuing must not impose any additional requirements.
  • - Disclosure of a Journalist License must be optional at all times.
  • - A journalist must not be afforded or denied any due process or rights as a result of holding or not-holding a Journalist License, except for the "Shield Laws".

There's a lot of potential for abuse by government, but formalized simply and clearly I think it could be done right. That said, I would read very carefully before supporting any attempts to implement such a license.

Re:I cautiously support "Journalist Licenses" (2)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304940)

Which is the death of the first amendment.

Just wait till Homeland Security gets their hand in things.

The whole point of a free press and free speech is to protect not that which is socially or politically acceptable, but that which is not.

When you allow regulation of what is acceptable, you ensure that what needs be said will not be.

Is this journalism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38304842)

There are Many Reasons Why I Claim that Kevin Padrick, Obsidian Finance LLC is a Thug, Thief and a Liar.. Many More Will Continue to Post.. in Detail .. as Oregon Attorney David Aman of Tonkon Torp LLP Law Firm sent me a Cease and Desist Requesting that I Stop saying such Facts about his Client Oregon Attorney Kevin Padrick for Obsidian Finance Portland Oregon.

with a proprietary technique to get her postings on the top of search engines where they get the most notice.

She's a nutcase and a spammer. If FOX is journalism, so is this.

Padrick/Obsidian (2)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304864)

First: Anybody who cares can examine the Cascadia bankruptcy in the WD Washington and can read the Judge's order denying Obsidian fees because of an obvious conflict of interest. They advised the bankruptcy debtor in trying to sell property, while at the same time trying purchase an interest in that property for themselves. Kinda obvious??? I for one welcome any scrutiny Obsidian gets.

Second: That judge would probably have granted First Amendment protection to a Revolutionary Era broadsheet editor-even if he shared the same ethical scruples as the poor fool lady in Oregon--notwithstanding the fact that the Oregon blogger has far more readers. Both the liberals and the original intent freakazoids are going to hate this decision.

When this goes up on appeal every blogger in the USA can and should file an amicus curiae brief with the Court of Appeals. This is about Liberty!

To the barricades! ;)

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