Blogger or Journalist? U.S. Court says they’re not the same

Blogger or Journalist? (Photo from

Blogger or Journalist? (Photo from

So, let’s end the debate here, shall we? Are you really a journalist–and therefore entitled to that media pass and whatever protection media workers are entitled to–or just a blogger? Here’s what some websites say about a blogger who was recently slapped $2.5 million in fines for defaming an investment firm in her blog. She invoked U.S. “media shield laws”, but the judge declared that she was a blogger, and “not a journalist.”


A blogger is not a journalist. Crystal Cox is a blogger, and $2.5 million says she is not a journalist. In a case that settled some debates about whether a blogger is a journalist and opened new ones about media shield laws, a U.S. District court judge in Oregon ruled that Cox had to pay $2.5 million to an investment firm she defamed on a blog she runs. Cox argued that media shield laws protect her against defamation suits. The judge disagreed. Cox told a Seattle paper, “This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet.” Maybe, but I’m guessing most Facebook updates aren’t intended to be journalism.


As reported by Seattle Weekly, Judge Marco A. Hernandez said Crystal Cox, who runs several blogs, wasn’t entitled to the protections afforded to journalists — specifically, Oregon’s media shield law for sources — because she wasn’t “affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system.”


The Obsidian Finance Group sued Cox in January for $10 million for writing several blog posts critical of the company and its co-founder, Kevin Padrick. Obsidian argued that the writing was defamatory. Cox represented herself in court.


The judge threw out all but one of the blog posts cited, focusing on just one (this one), which was more factual in tone than the rest of her writing. Cox said that was because she was being fed information from an inside source, whom she refused to name.


Without the source, she couldn’t prove the information in the post was true — and thus, according to the judge, she didn’t qualify for Oregon’s media shield law since she wasn’t employed by a media establishment. In the court’s eyes, she was a blogger, not a journalist. The penalty: $2.5 million.

From The Guardian

The way we frame this discussion is important. When anyone can publish, I’m often asked, who’s a journalist, anyway? That’s the wrong question, I believe. The vastly more relevant issue is this: what is journalism?


That – and not the matter of whom we call a journalist – is what legislators and courts should be examining. Because, while most people will never be (or call themselves) journalists, any of us can commit acts of journalism. The Oregon blogger’s kind of journalism certainly isn’t my style, but her goal is plainly to inform the public about an issue she believes to be of public interest. Is that journalism? I’d argue it is, even though I certainly don’t argue that she or any other journalist is entitled to libel anyone else. (In a related take on this topic, GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram says we are all becoming journalists – and that laws need to reflect that. We agree on the basics if not the terminology.)

The Philippines hasn’t had a similar case yet, although it definitely should. For a country that declares itself democratic and with a free press, Freedom of Information is still sorely lacking, as are laws that define the boundaries of digital media and citizen journalism, and protect those who practice it.

As for the blogger vs journalist debate, my short answer there is this: Not everyone who has the tools, knows how (or deserves) to use them. I’ll save my long answer for another post. 🙂


The 10 worst nightmares for a PR professional (Ragan’s PR Daily)

Anyone who’s ever had to handle PR or media relations for a person or company will have their own nightmare scenarios. Here are some of the Top 10 mentioned in Ragan’s PR Daily. Feel free to add your own!

1. You mail merge a pitch to the wrong media list.
2. Your big placement is canned due to a huge breaking news.
3. A press release is issued with the CEO’s name misspelled and all the URLs are dead.
4. You wake to find a cover story featuring all your competitors.
5. Crisis, crisis, crisis and no prepared plan of attack.

Read the full list HERE.

Do liberal arts students make better PR pros? (Ragan’s PR Daily)

I may be biased about this piece because I’m a proud product of a liberal arts education. (My high school put me in a liberal arts track, while I come from a university with a proud history of Jesuit liberal arts training.) But when you see what author Nathan Burgess is trying to say about the qualities of liberal arts graduates that make great PR practitioners, you just might agree with him.

An excerpt:

A liberal arts student—besides usually having dealt with intense writing requirements—demonstrates a level of inquisitiveness that goes unmatched. This peculiar student chose an educational path that does not guarantee a job and involves studying all kinds of material: literature, history, philosophy, art, and so on. This student achieves a level of competency in all of these areas with the skills to dive deeper if needed.

I can teach someone to “be social,” to work with the client, to create a media list, to structure a pitch, read basic analytics and more. But I can’t teach someone to want to know things just for the sake of knowing and learning something new. I can’t teach someone to revel in the discovery process. There’s more to a good candidate than what schools teach in a PR classroom.

Read the full text HERE.

How journalism education needs to change (via IJNet)

This excerpt from IJNet talks of a report by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the New America Foundation about how journalism education needs to change in order to keep with the times and “embrace… a community news mission.”

An excerpt:

The report, “Shaping 21st Century Journalism: Leveraging a ‘Teaching Hospital Model’ in Journalism Education,” suggests universities should not just teach journalists, but should produce meaningful journalism by embracing a community news mission. The report was released at the inaugural Journalism Interactive Conference, on journalism education and digital media, held October 28 and 29 at the University of Maryland.


Authors C.W. Anderson, Tom Glaisyer, Jason Smith and Marika Rothfeld write that universities should shadow the method of teaching hospitals that “don’t merely lecture medical students, but also treat patients and pursue research. Journalism programs should not limit themselves to teaching journalists, but should produce copy and become laboratories of innovation as well.”

The full report is also downloadable through a link in IJNet. Click HERE to read more.

Applying the public interest test to journalism (via IJNet)

Here’s a cool post in IJNet about what makes a story in line with public interest:

Journalists should always apply the public interest test before deciding whether to cover a story. For most issues it’s fairly clear what is and what is not in the public interest; for some it’s more complicated, particularly where privacy is concerned.


The first task, however, is to separate what is in the public interest from those things members of the public are interested in; they are not necessarily the same. The fact that the public may be interested in something has nothing to do with whether it is in the public interest.

My only beef here is that, in the next paragraph, it actually quotes Wikipedia as a source.

Click HERE to read the rest of the post.

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