December 6th, 2011
Are bloggers members of the media? US District judge in Portland says no… but may have missed something
Now, I’m used to having the “journalist” vs “blogger” argument. I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger. I’m not terribly objective. And a great deal of Silicon Florist is my hemming and hawing about all of the awesome things going on in Portland. I mean, let’s be honest. At best, Silicon Florist is like People magazine or TMZ.
But now the argument has taken a bit of different turn. Thanks to a ruling against a blogger in a US District Court. Right here in Portland, Oregon.
Now that headline is a little misleading. The judgement isn’t about whether she’s a journalist or not. It’s an argument that blogs aren’t media. And that doesn’t really make any sense.
Because while I might not be a journalist, I still think of Silicon Florist as a media property. And I think most bloggers have the same feeling. But according to U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez, a blogger is only a member of the media he or 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.
That’s an important distinction. And a judgement as to whether the protections of old world media—our revered Fourth Estate—are available to bloggers. For Crystal Cox, they aren’t. To the tune of $2.5 million.
Now, no matter what you think about the topics of Crystal’s blog, this affects everyone with a blog. It affects people who share news on Twitter. It affects anyone who publishes publicly on Google+. Because it’s an awful slippery slope.
Some folks on Hacker News are digging into the issue. And some of those folks—wtallis in particular—have discovered that the judge has missed part of the language in the law. To wit, Media Persons As Witnesses, Section 44.510 of the Oregon Revised Statutes [emphasis is mine]:
(2) “Medium of communication” has its ordinary meaning and includes, but is not limited to, any newspaper, magazine or other periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Any information which is a portion of a governmental utterance made by an official or employee of government within the scope of the official’s or employee’s governmental function, or any political publication subject to ORS 260.532, is not included within the meaning of “medium of communication.”
So, according to the witness statutes, a blogger may be protected. But according to the judge, they’re not.
Not only am I not a journalist, but I’m also not a lawyer. So I’ve no idea. But it’s an interesting distinction. Maybe you can head over to get lawyer and blogger Jack Bogdanski’s take on it.
Whatever the case, this is going to be interesting to see what happens with this. In the meantime, I’ll just keep blogging.
From the comments:
- B!x shares his opinion and insights on the Oregon Shield Law
- Aaron Hockley shares how the Oregon Shield Law differs from the Washington Shield Law
The complete opinion:
Crystal Cox Opinion
A federal jury has ruled an “investigative blogger” defamed a central Oregon attorney in a case that raises questions about press protections and the nature of the press itself in the Internet age.
(Hat tip @ahockley)
(Image courtesy sqrpix. Used under Creative Commons.)