Blogging vs. Journalism Question A Key Point In Compelling The Troll Tracker To Testify
from the we'll-be-seeing-more-of-these dept
While it looks like the attempt to get Rick Frenkel, better known as the “Patent Troll Tracker” into court on a separate patent-related dispute has gone nowhere, there’s an interesting side dispute as part of this that touches on the age-old debate concerning the border of blogging and journalism. Frenkel told the court that since the Troll Tracker blog was a side project, not an effort of Cisco, and since he was, effectively, a journalist in writing it, he could not be compelled to testify since it “would result in a serious detriment to Frenkel’s future ability to gather and disseminate news.”
However, Frenkel’s nemesis, patent attorney Ray Niro responded by scoffing at these claims, and ticking off the reasons why Frenkel should not be considered a journalist. Unfortunately, in doing so, Niro displays a rather profound ignorance concerning what it means to be a journalist (one would hope that his work with patent hoarders is not so sloppy). In the link above, Joe Mullin does a good job picking apart Niro’s points, but let’s take a closer look. First, Niro says Frenkel is not a journalist because he’s unqualified:
“Frenkel has no degree in journalism; no professional training as a reporter; and has never been employed as a reporter or journalist.”
If that’s a requirement to be a journalist these days, then an awful lot of folks doing serious journalism work wouldn’t be considered journalists either. There are no professional requirements to be a journalist. Second, Niro claims that Frenkel wasn’t very nice in his posts, highlighting the Troll Tracker’s rather amusing “haiku” contests, that tended to make fun of patent hoarders and (sometimes) Niro. Of course, there’s nothing in engaging with your readers with amusing haiku contests that makes you any less of a journalist. Third, Niro says that since Cisco was Frenkel’s employer, he’s clearly not a journalist but something of a corporate mouthpiece. Of course, there’s little evidence to suggest that Frenkel was doing anything on behalf of Cisco, but more importantly, (as Mullin points out) biased reporting doesn’t disqualify you from being a journalist. If it did, how many “journalists” would still be around? And fourth, Niro claims that Frenkel was guilty of various journalistic ethics violations, such as writing anonymously (someone better alert the Economist) and not revealing his sources (always knew that Woodward and Bernstein weren’t real journalists).
The simple fact is that you don’t need a degree or a certificate to be a journalist these days. You just need to report the news — and no one can deny that Frenkel did that. In fact, he was much more of a journalist than many “official” journalists these days in that he reported on news that wasn’t getting covered anywhere else and did some pretty hefty investigative work on some to try to work out the details behind some of the patent hoarding company shell games. In fact, since he took down his site, the type of news he reported has been sadly missing from the discussions on patent law and patent reform. On that note, it’s probably also worth pointing out that Frenkel said in his own filing on the case that he’s planning to return to blogging at some point in the future.