Finally, all of my fears about the legitimacy of my chosen career have paid off with the news that a federal judge in Portland, Oregon–the very city in which I live!–has ruled that blogging does not, in fact, equal journalism, and that bloggers are not necessarily deserving of the moral and legal protections that “real” journalists are given.
Judge Marco Hernandez has ruled against Chrystal Cox, who describes herself as an “Investigative Blogger Exposing Corruption“, in a defamation case brought by the Obsidian Finance Group. Citing a confidential source as the starting point for the claims she had made, Cox believed that she was protected by Oregon’s Shield Law, which allows for journalists’ anonymous sources to keep their anonymity. Judge Hernandez, however, disagreed.
Hernandez ruled that the Shield Law is limited to traditional media (broadcast news, newspapers and magazines), adding that Cox has failed to show that she has any evidence of an education in journalism or “any credential of proof of any affliliation with a recognized news entity.” As a result, she now faces a potential $2.5 million judgment and, unsurprisingly, plans to appeal.
This is the second ruling in recent months that complicates the issue of digital journalism and anonymity; in June, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that online discussion forum postings by journalists are similarly not covered by that state’s Shield Law. The solution is clear: Don’t say anything online that you’re not willing to defend in court… but if you have a chance to attribute statements blindly in print or television, go crazy.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.