In a daring digital decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Oregon, a blogger is not automatically a journalist. Crystal Cox, self proclaimed investigative journalist wrote a blog, Obsidian Financial Sucks, defaming the Oregon company. Her article resulted in a $2.5 million suit being brought against her by the company. She lost in spite of her proclamation:
“Yes I am a Self-Proclaimed Investigative Blogger and under Supreme Court Decisions, under the law as making a living as an Investigative Blogger, Gathering News, Taking Interviews, and Reporting on these Stories I am Media [sic]. I am an Independent News Media. I am a Public Forum, my blogs do go out in news feeds and I am Legally Media [sic]“.
“But the judge disagreed. Judge Marco Hernandez wrote that due to Cox’s lack of education in journalism, any credentials or proof of affiliation with any recognized news entity, plus her failure to contact the other side to get both sides of the story, Cox is not a member of the media, so journalistic shield laws do not apply to the alleged defamation statements Cox wrote on her blog. She has been ordered to pay Obsidian $2.5 million in damages.”
This brings up a critical digital journalistic issue by posing the question, “What makes a blogger a journalist?”
According to the court, a blogger who considers him or herself an investigative journalist, expecting to be protected legally by traditional journalistic codes or ‘shield laws’, must be held to the same standards as a traditional media journalist.
The blogger is planning to appeal the decision because she believes that bloggers need to be recognized as journalists and protected as such. In her own defense, she said, “A blogger is a journalist, or a reporting [sic] in my opinion, when they take interviews, get tips emailed, get and research documents, study cases and depositions, talk to those personally involved, and post their story just as a traditional reporter.”
There are several crucial pieces missing from Cox’s self-defense quoted above and cited in the judges ruling. They are education, credentials and ethics. According to Judge Marco Hernandez, she possesses none of these. She has no journalistic education. She has no credentials as a journalist as she has no affliction with any journalistic organization. And lastly, because she did not get both sides of the story, her writing lacks ethics.
MY OPINION AND CONCLUSION
As an author for the Digital Brand Marketing Education Blog, I personally consider this a landmark case that needs to stay on the books to set precedent. ‘New media’ offers endless opportunities for self-expression of ideas with the addition that these ideas can catch on like wildfire and go ‘viral’ as we say in the ‘new media’ speak.
This is what makes this case all the more important. Anyone can say anything. Anyone can write anything. But it is crucial that in order to be protected under ‘journalistic shield law’ that the same rules apply in ‘new media’ that are expected to be upheld in traditional media journalism.
I am certain that this ruling will be tested repeatedly. Other states will most likely have to follow suit. It is to the benefit of news bloggers, who abide by the rules, that this ruling was made. Without the traditional guidelines, education, credentials, and ethics being upheld on the Internet, a blogger’s misinformation can become like a dangerous wildfire gone completely out of control.
The Internet provides ample opportunity for creative writers to publish fiction. A writer can only be considered a journalist by following the technical rules described in this post and based on the decision made by the Supreme Court of Oregon. Otherwise the writing can be a figment of the author’s imagination rather than his or her search for the truth.
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