from the journalists-are-special dept
We do not find that online message boards are similar to the types of news entities listed in the statute, and do not believe that the Legislature intended to provide an absolute privilege in defamation cases to people who post comments on message boards.But I don't think that's what anyone was trying to claim. This isn't about the venue, but about the action. Journalism is not a venue, it's a process. If the information was acquired in the course of journalism, it shouldn't matter where it was published. Yet all three courts seemed to miss this key point and focus mainly on the venue issue. So, even if you're doing journalism, but publish it somewhere the judges don't like, suddenly, you're not doing journalism. This is quite strange and I don't buy the court's explanation here. They even note that the law itself is written broadly to protect "all significant news-gathering activities." And yet it still says that venue of publication is a key factor in determining what is journalism. This is an outdated and, frankly, troubling view of journalism. The court even goes on a bit of a screed about "unfiltered, unedited" forums as being this anarchy of the internet that does not resemble journalism.
Once again, that's totally irrelevant. What others do on forums is meaningless. The entire question should have been whether or not Hale was engaged in the action of journalism. The court warns that if Hale's argument is accepted than "anyone with a Facebook account, could try to assert the privilege." But, what's wrong with that? If the person is actually engaged in journalism, than what's the problem? Nothing in what Hale was claiming would mean that everyone with a Facebook page was automatically protected by the shield law. The person would still need to prove that they were engaged in journalism. It's really too bad that the New Jersey Courts couldn't see this.