He/She who babbles is not always a journalist.
A conservative blogger interrupted President Obama during the president’s announcement of a new policy dealing with illegal immigrants. Though the blogger failed to show the maturity of an actual journalist, the fact that he received press credentials to the White House suggest that some bloggers may be perceived as journalists.
Well, a Montana judge has determined that a blogger is not necessarily a journalist. No, my feelings are not hurt. This non-binding ruling concluded that a blogger, specifically Crystal Cox, was not a journalist. Some definition of what a journalist is (and is not) might help those of us who mine the internet for information to determine what is real info and what is made up for convenience sake.
Federal Judge Marco Hernandez said Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. The judge offered a detailed definition of a journalist by stating what Cox lacked:
--She had no journalism education,
--no credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet,
--no proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts,
--no evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story.
Ms. Cox said she was a journalist since she had produced over 400 blogs and had developed a system to get her blogs on the top of on-line lists using a unique method of search engine optimization.
Producing a large quantity of content does not make you a journalist. Trending on Yahoo does not make you a journalist. And perhaps that is the problem with journalism today. Some believe that if you publish something, you are a journalist. And readers and viewers sometimes believe that if we read it somewhere, a journalist produced it.
This is scary. When random information takes on the stature of a journalistic endeavor, then the public becomes a less informed electorate. Quantity of publication does not mean the publisher is a journalist. An individual who reads a large quantity of info on the internet does not mean the individual is informed.
There are also immediate practical implications of the judge’s ruling. In denying the blogger status as a journalist, Ms. Cox is denied the benefits of shield laws. Shield laws allow journalists to refuse to provide sources for their info to the authorities. The idea of shield laws is that if a journalist is forced to divulge sources to a judge or grand jury, the journalist will have much less access to information from confidential sources and the public will be less informed. (There are exceptions to the shield laws. Such laws differ by state.)
Given the definition offered for what a journalist is, how many of those we watch evenings on Fox or MSNBC would qualify as journalists? I know that in this context of a blog, I am not acting like a journalist. I am offering opinions. (However, I have fact checked.) No, the Montana judge did not hurt my feelings. On the contrary, he offers hope that one day we will know the difference between a journalist and a babbler.
For comments or to see some past columns, please go to: http://immediateneeds-now.blogspot.com
http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/guides/reporters-privilege/shield-laws (shield laws by state)