An unpublicized, prototype smart phone is meticulously detailed
in a blog post unbeknownst to its creators.
The whole Apple vs. Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen is unfortunately helping to define a soft spot in the information age: what activities establish and define a blogger as or from a journalist?
Are Bloggers Journalists?
From the headlines, it is clear that legal statutes and opinion are unclear and un-unified on the subject.
In Defense of Journalist Bloggers
“…as Old Media continues to collapse, those very same institutions and individuals that once panned the digital world are now scrambling to embrace it…”
“If this case goes to court, as it appears to be doing, the appropriate legal definition of journalism should be expanded to include individuals that work for online news organizations and those that participate in legitimate journalistic activities on a regular basis, with blogger status becoming finally irrelevant.”
Are Bloggers Journalists and Should They Get to Use Shield Laws?
“Yet bloggers often act as journalists — journalists outside the mainstream media — and this ruling could muzzle ordinary citizens from using their voice to point out the foibles of companies without protection from lawsuits. At the same time, this ruling could also protect citizens and companies from having slanderous statements made about them on the Internet. It’s a ruling that cuts both ways.”
“At the heart of the case is the question of whether bloggers are journalists — and if so, should they be held to the same standards as well as receive the same protections.
Journalistics points out that the self-perception of bloggers as journalists has risen.
“PRWeek and PRNewswire recently teamed up on a study that found 52% of bloggers consider themselves journalists. The last time they did this study, roughly a third of bloggers felt this way. Why do more bloggers consider themselves journalists these days?”
“What makes a journalist a journalist is whether she is gathering news for dissemination to the public, not the method or medium she uses to publish. So the better way to frame the debate is: Can journalists blog?”
“As the California Supreme Court acknowledged, “The press’ function as a vital source of information is weakened whenever the ability of journalists to gather news is impaired. Compelling a reporter to disclose the identity of a source may significantly interfere with this news gathering ability; journalists frequently depend on informants to gather news, and confidentiality is often essential to establishing a relationship with an informant.” (Mitchell v. Superior Court)”
Are bloggers journalists? Do they deserve press protections?
“Unlike traditional news outlets, however, many blogs have no editors, no publishers and, often, a staff of only one. And while some are supported by advertisers and contributions, many bloggers make no money at all.”
“Ultimately, the issue comes down to whether bloggers act like traditional journalists, says University of Iowa law professor and First Amendment specialist Randall Bezanson. Simply expressing opinions to a tiny audience doesn’t count, he says.”
Md. shield law now includes protection for college student journalists
The bill’s language extends protections to those “employed by the news media in any news gathering or news disseminating capacity,” or to anyone “enrolled as a student in an institution of postsecondary education and engaged in any news gathering or news disseminating capacity recognized by the institution as a scholastic activity or in conjunction with an activity sponsored funded, managed or supervised by school staff or faculty.”
The “news media” covered by the bill currently includes “newspapers, magazines, journals, press associations, news agencies, wire services, radio, television and any printed, photographic, mechanical, or electronic means of disseminating news and information to the public.”
“[S]ocial media and just-in-time applications have changed the way Americans get information about current events or health information”
– Aaron Smith, a Research Specialist at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and author of a report based on a new national phone survey.
Giz Your Own Adventure: Bloggers, Journalists, and Case Law
“Yes, bloggers count as journalists. See the precedent of O’Grady v. Superior Court, a 2006 case in which bloggers were sued by Apple for revealing a confidential new product. The court ruled that bloggers do indeed qualify for protections offered all other journalists, both in California and federally.”
Times Reporter Called to Grand Jury for C.I.A. Book
“He [Times reporter and subpoenaed author, James Risen] intends to honor his commitment of confidentiality to his source or sources,” Mr. Kurtzberg [Risen’s lawyer] said. “We intend to fight this subpoena.”
Troubling Precedent: NJ Court Says Bloggers Are Not Journalists
Sign of the Times
The Apple Gizmodo incident is one of many of today’s issues that demand we discuss and reconsider what use to be the most common assumptions:
What is news? What is a journalist?
Who makes news? Who reports news? What is a news source?
Are bloggers journalists?
Are bloggers and online content creators protected with the same rights and by the same laws that protect journalists in our offline world?
It was more than 3 years ago – a light year in internet time – that I saw Michael Wesch‘s mind breaking video The Machine is Us/ing Us.
In summary, due to the internet’s malleable nature that genuinely promotes creativity, remix, and innovation, we will need to rethink: copyright, authorship, identity, ethics, governance, privacy, commerce, love, family, ourselves.
Apple Gizmodo only seems to have expedited our need to truly grapple with this question now.
Are you a Blogger Journalist or Citizen Journalist?
Learn about Reporter’s Priviledge in your State here.
Learn about the protections journalist have in Shield Laws here.
Learn more about Retraction statutes here.
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