A judge in Oregon recently ruled that a blogger isn’t a journalist. John C. Dvorak, professional curmudgeon and one of the longest-tenured tech writers isn’t impressed with the decision:
The case of Crystal Cox, a self-professed "investigative blogger" from Oregon, should outrage the public. The woman was investigating targeted companies that she believed to be acting unethically and found herself at the wrong end of a lawsuit.
The evidence she had unearthed concerning a Pacific Northwest finance group she was after and the sources she used seemed, in the end, immaterial to the outcome of the lawsuit against her. I won’t get into the details of Cox’s case since my concern is the definition of journalist, but you can read more here." The judge, recent Obama appointee Marco Hernandez, asserted that as a blogger with no other credentials, she was not a journalist and was entitled to no protection.
He said, “Although the defendant is a self-proclaimed ‘investigative blogger’ and defines herself as ‘media,’ the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law in the first instance.”
Apparently, there are now new qualifications for journalists. So who decides these qualifications? Hernandez? Where did he get this from? I’ve never seen a laundry list in the U.S. that precludes bloggers. There is nothing in the Bill of Rights, to wit: 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.
Predictably, the New York Times like the decision:
The ruling on whether she was a journalist in the eyes of the law turned out to be a MacGuffin, a detail that was very much beside the point. She didn’t so much report stories as use blogging, invective and search engine optimization to create an alternative reality. Journalists who initially came to her defense started to back away when they realized they weren’t really in the same business.
This is the problem. A MacGuffin shouldn’t matter. If Cox were lying, then there could be a case for defamation and it wouldn’t require the judge to make up the criteria for what is or isn’t a journalist. But it appears that the judge looked at what appears to be bad facts and came up with bad law.