Last month, a US federal judge ruled that a blogger, sued for defamation, could not ask for the same protection journalists have under the Oregon state law because she was not affiliated with “a newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system.” The judge also elaborated a series of criterias to define journalism.
In a New York Times debate, lawyers and university professors raised some interesting points.
Kyu Ho Youm, Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, wrote: “Judge Hernandez ruled correctly that Crystal Cox, the self-proclaimed “investigative blogger,” was not a journalist, so she was not privileged to protect her source. But his textual interpretation of the Oregon shield law shows that the pre-Internet law needs updating.”
Ellyn Angelotti, social media professor at the Poynter Institute asked, what is a journalist and advanced: “A journalist — good or bad — possesses a hunger to pursue the truth and to share it in compelling ways.” If quality is produced, she added, it means that bloggers could be considered journalists.
These are all interesting points raised by the debaters, pointing out to both the inneficiency of pre-Internet laws and the changing definition of journalism in different contexts.
There are other people that have discussed the issues on the Web and are worth mentionning:
- David Coursey in Forbes claiming that the judge definition was stiff.
- Julie Hilden in Counterpunch describing the federal court case.
I am wondering, how can these definitions of journalism be made relevant in a legal context, such as the one in Oregon? In a social context, does journalism need a broader definition, and include some bloggers that are not affiliated with traditional news institutions? How could that be done?
This is a question that I am thinking about outside of my current research project. I look forward to hear and take part of further debates on the topic. Even though this question was raised since the advent of blogging years ago, it is still relevant today.