Should Bloggers Be Afforded The Same Rights Granted To Journalists?

from the lawsuits-galore... dept

Paul Alan Levy writes "Together with the ACLU of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Freedom of Expression, we have intervened in a case pending in Buckingham County, Virginia in which a plaintiff in a defamation case retaliated against a blogger who covered his defamation suit in less than flattering terms by sending a highly invasive subpoena that demands production of the blogger’s communications with his sources, IP numbers of all who posted on his web site or even READ the web site. There have been only a handful of cases in which courts have addressed whether bloggers should be treated as journalists for the purpose of considering the reporters’ privilege. We are also arguing that, in addition to protecting the commenters on the blog for the reasons usually argued — protecting their right of anonymous speech — posters on a journalist’s blog should be treated as “sources” whose disclosure violates the journalist’s own rights.”

We’ve been seeing a lot of these types of cases lately. It would be good to get some more definitive rulings that establish both the rights of those who blog, as well as those who comment anonymously.

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Comments on “Should Bloggers Be Afforded The Same Rights Granted To Journalists?”

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Max Kayden (user link) says:


Depends on the definition of “blogger”. I have no problem including the guys who do their own research/investigation, but most bloggers only make a backlink and a paragraph or two. Many will include some rhetoric or opinion that’s almost always uninformed. These backlinkers are just pundits, not journalists, and there’s no “pundit” privilege.

Pinch says:

Re: Re:

And exactly why is that? Newspapers will be dead in the next few years, many will disappear this year. Newspapers dumped fact-checkers years ago. Network and local media outlets are seeing huge declines in viewers and listeners. So who exactly will be reporting news? And please cite a source as to what qualifies as a journalist. Is a degree from some bastion of liberalism the only qualification?

Xiera says:

Re: Re:

From a strictly logical point of view, that makes no sense whatsoever. In the first phrase, you say that members of the set “journalist” may also be members of the set “blogger”, which obviously infers intersection. In the second phrase, you imply that there is no intersection.

I think what you meant to say is: “A journalist may be a blogger, but it does not follow that all bloggers are journalists.”, which is true.

The second phrase by itself, as Pinch noted, is inaccurate.

Stephen Pate (user link) says:

Bloggers, journalists and free speech

Most of the protections are free speech. In Canada we updated the rules and put “freedom of expression” alongside “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” The “other media” has been used to include social media. I was able to get a press pass for the legislature based on my experience, 1,400 articles printed and reference to “other media” despite my open attacks on the government of the day. No one wants to look like they don’t support a free press, other than the press themselves.

There are no distinctions in either Canada or the US that provide pejorative lesser rights to “bloggers”. Free speech is what it is for all citizens. That being said, the law always has boundaries and libel is not covered. Bill Clinton wasted a ton of energy chasing the Drodge report which was a blog. Anyone can have their sources demanded. It takes lawyers and court time to prosecute and defend those claims. Except when you are running afoul of state secrets, most claims on your sources would be civil matters for the litigants to fight out themselves.

rev.dak says:

Should Journalists have MORE RIGHTS than Bloggers? Anyone and everyone can be a blogger. You just have to write something down in a public place. Nothing has changed, only the medium. It’s another case where “professionals” are threatened because there is nothing actually special about what they do, except that they _currently_ get paid to do what they do.

JTiger (user link) says:

What is a journalist and why is it different than a blogger

A journalist is someone that delivers news – generally for the public good – in an independent, accurate, truthful and objective manner. If you want to complicate that, then you would ask, “What is news?” To which a journalist would reply, something that happened that people want to or would want to know about.

A blogger is, well, anyone that has an internet connection and wants to write about something or bring attention to something by linking to it. What do their posts consist of? More often than not, it is something that interests them, not necessarily the public good – that can mesh sometimes though.

So, I would describe the difference between a blogger and journalist not only in their content but in their intent. A blog post is a reflection of what the blogger finds interesting. A piece of journalism is a reflection of what the journalist feels is information that will benefit the public good.

To me, the tricky part is when the two interests overlap. Take Jim Foti’s Roadguy blog, for example. He finds traffic stuff and happenings interesting but the content of his blog also benefits the public good. The kicker here, of course, is that Jim Foti is Minneapolis Star-Tribune journalist.

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