Who, Exactly, Is a Journalist?

You may also like...

12 Responses

  1. Eric Goldman says:

    If we were building the law from scratch today, there is no way we would try to “privilege” journalists from other types of content publishers and disseminators. That distinction is simply too incoherent in an era where everyone has equal access to an infinite audience.

    The real silliness is over the idea that private information can be put back into bottle after it’s been released to the Internet, if only for a matter of minutes. The court screwed up by disclosing private information in a public opinion, and it will have to accept the consequences of its mistake. Eric.

  2. Eric, it’s a peeve of mine to see the utterly false claim of “everyone has equal access to an infinite audience”. No. Unless one is passed by the relevant gatekeepers, YOU *WON’T* GET HEARD! It’s cruel nonsense to say otherwise.

    That being said, you’re right this is an easy case.

    In general, the idea everyone’s-a-journalist is simply too facile, and that’s obvious. There probably won’t be a bright line, but we’ll end up with something like “journalistic purpose” as a similar sort of thing as “fair use”.

  3. The O’Grady case in California discusses journalism as the “dissemination of news” – which seems to apply here.


  4. It just seems wrong to let the government decide who is or isn’t a journalist. If the government gets to decide who gets 1st amendment protections then there are no 1st amendment protections.

    A journalist is whoever claims to be a journalist. How can that possibly be a bad thing?

  5. Jens says:

    Umm …

    Who has deleted ?

  6. Gary: The problem is that’s bit like saying “It just seems wrong to have let the government decide what’s “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research,” (fair use). If the government gets to decide who gets fair use, then there’s no fair use”.

  7. This, of course, is a discussion which can occupy lots and lots of time – and it is a worthy discussion.

    The trick to all of this, I believe, is people learning how to write for an audience properly. Consider this:

    “George W. Bush is a good president”


    “In my opinion, George W. Bush is a good president”.

    The difference is one that is easy to see. Of course, this is an example and I won’t put my own opinion – but there has to be some accountability when someone is communicating; if I say:

    “Bob stole the car”


    “Bob allegedly stole the car”


    “I saw Bob steal the car”

    Things are read quite differently based on how well established the person writing is. This goes back to reputation in a different way, etc.

    Seems like fodder for a post, actually. Not that I don’t have enough to write about… :-)

  8. AF says:

    Everybody who expresses information to the public should be treated equally — being labeled a “journalist” shouldn’t carry any special privileges, especially since there seems to be no particularly good way to distinguish who is a journalist and who isn’t.

    Being labeled a “journalist” shouldn’t carry special privileges — unless giving journalists privileges aids the public flow of information. Media shield laws are a key example. Shielding “everyone who expresses information to the public” is a recipe for abuse — people would set up blogs for the purpose of shielding information. But no shield law at all would allow parties or the government to routinely subpoena journalists in any case related to an article they wrote — conscripting journalists as police and unpaid private investigators against their will and providing a significant disincentive to reporting. The best solution seems to be to offer a shield, but only to “journalists,” however imperfectly defined.

  9. Ramiro says:

    Yes. Being a journalist shouldn’t matter, is speech what’s important. Defining what a journalist is is almost impossible, isn’t it? Plus, if we want to do that, we shoul define what journalism is. Is a broadcast / delivery of a messege to a silent reciever? Or is it something else? Isn’t journalism a conversation? Isn’t comments to public interest news made by bloggers precisely the kind of speec the FA wanted to protect in the first place?

  10. Mr. ethics says:

    But what about Howard’s ethical duties to the court?? Sure, he might hold himself out to be a journalist, but he’s also a lawyer and thus bound by the ethical constraints of our profession. Just because he can do something as a “journalist” doesn’t mean he can do it as an attorney.

    Please explore on a separate post. Very interesting topic.

  11. Protection of bloggers as journalists is supported by appropriate case law. I would refer you to the following research article on the topic – Constitutionally Protected Blogging.


  12. Alitta says:

    It’s not difficult to be a journalist but being a good one is not that easy