Gizmodo's iPhone Stunt Is Killing Journalism

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This week, California police searched the home of Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen and seized four computers and two servers. It sparked a discussion about whether bloggers should be protected under reporter's shield laws.

A little background: Police had acquired a warrant after Gizmodo retrieved a lost iPhone prototype and published a series of stories about it. Prosecutors tried to justifiy the seizure by alleging that Gizmodo paid for stolen goods. However a number of bloggers are sticking up for Gizmodo, asserting that bloggers like Jason Chen are journalists, and therefore fall under shield-law protection. But, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, says such a ruling could hurt journalism. He explained himself on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night:

The concern by a lot of courts, but also some journalists, is that if you define journalists so broadly to cover anybody with a blog, then it becomes a distinction without meaning, and that eventually you`re going to lose protections of the media, if everyone can be classified as a journalist. ...

This is going to be a bad case that makes bad law for journalists.  This is not the case that journalist want to fight these issues on.  Here you've got someone who is being paid not for information in a typical checkbook journalism case, but actually for property that belongs to someone else.  That makes it even worse than most of these controversies.  And I think what you're going to see is if this case goes forward, it may define what that standard is.  And I think a lot of us who support press rights are very concerned how that might come -- turn out.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.