In the rush to defend blogs as a medium of journalism, we ask the wrong questions about what press freedom seeks to protect
Last week, a federal judge ruled that Crystal Cox, a blogger in Montana, owed $2.5 million to an Oregon lawyer and his company, Obsidian Finance Group. The judge ruled that as a blogger not employed by a media organization, Cox was not protected by Oregon's state shield law that gives privilege to journalists from these sorts of lawsuits.
In his decision, Judge Marco Hernandez went out of his way to say that Cox does not count as a journalist (later deciding that it didn't matter):
First, although 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 cabletelevision system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law ...
Perceiving attack, the Internet's collective fur shot up on its back: Do bloggers not merit the same protections as journalists?
Many people have argued that the medium in which you publish should have no bearing as to whether you receive the protection of a state's shield law (something 39 states and the District of Columbia now have). But this argument answers the wrong question, because we're not asking the right ones about how we protect the free flow of information -- and balance that free flow with other values such as a right to defend oneself in court -- in a day when anyone can publish online.