Streams

Shielding Bloggers

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The New Jersey Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments over whether an independent blogger who uncovered corruption in the pornography industry is protected under the same shield laws of traditional journalists. Statehouse reporter for the Star Ledger, MaryAnn Spoto, and Kevin Smith, ethics chair and former president of the Society of Professional Journalists, join us to discuss the case and what it may mean for the future of blogging.

Guests:

Kevin Smith and MaryAnn Spoto

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Comments [14]

So, interesting, according to your discussion today I might just call myself a journalist. Why? I have two blogs, one for music, and one for science.

In MusicSprings, I try to "spread the word" on the New Music scene in NYC and I follow five labels for new releases. WQXR's Q2 is my special place.

ScienceSprings is dedicated to raising the visibility of the U.S contribution to world wide scientific research. I follow all of the D.O.E. labs, CERN and the LHC, and NASA. Did you know that 30% of the people at CERN on the French-Swiss border are from the U.S.? That's pretty cool.

So? Am I really a journalist?

Feb. 10 2011 03:32 PM

IMHO this segment asked all the wrong questions. The first amendment to the Constitution protected free speech and a free press. The purpose was simple: the fourth estate would play a key role in monitoring government activities and be able to freely explore and expose malfeasance by officials in government (among other services it would provide for the Republic). And all citizens could make their opinions known. The intent was not to create a special class, ie journalists. The Constitution did not say freedom of journalists. It was making a broader point about the importance of the free flow of information and the rights of citizen to speak freely. The point was that once it gets published (in any form) it's protected speech. Becoming involved in who is or who is not a journalist is a bottomless pit. Who decides? The Columbia School of Journalism? State governments? The Federal government? The protection is a blanket protection. When the Constitution was written pamphlets were one of the primary forms of communication, not just what we call "the press." You write for the NYTimes, Salon or your own blog, you are protected. Shield laws should not even be needed. As for protecting sources, it is clear that sources are often critical to the process and very few sources would come forward if they thought they would be exposed. So they should be protected as well.

Feb. 10 2011 12:01 PM
plaintalker fan

bernice sells herself short -- she is the last real reporter in Plainfield, Plaintalker is a real resource -- old school!

http://ptalker2.blogspot.com/

Feb. 10 2011 11:02 AM
Bernice Paglia from Plainfield NJ

A New Jersey group is offering a nearly-instant "citizen journalist" designation by taking a short class:
http://www.jointhecampaign.com/courses/journalist.html
Professional reporters I know find this somewhat insulting. It also raises questions of legitimacy regarding shield laws.
I am a retired reporter and have a hyperlocal blog that includes posts on municipal government. I'm wondering whether my background gives me any edge in shield law coverage.

Feb. 10 2011 10:50 AM
Jef Klein from Princeton

I'm a blogger, but I don't expect to be treated like a journalist. I'm not trained as a journalist. I have the right to free speech but I don't have the additional professional rights or courtesies awarded journalists under the Constitution.

To me, it's sort of like It's like the difference between telling a friend how to treat that sore throat, and setting up a business to treat illnesses without becoming accredited to do so, and expecting the same rights and obligations that a certified medical practitioner is given.

Journalists are specially trained to check sources, to support their stories with facts, and are not the same as citizen bloggers.

Feb. 10 2011 10:50 AM
mari

If bloggers weren't journalists, wouldn't their sources be easy enough for authorities to find on their own?

Feb. 10 2011 10:45 AM
George M from NJ

Who is going to decide what is a "legitimate news organization?" I write for various trade journals - some with pay, some not. Am I considered a journalist? All journalists should have protection.

Feb. 10 2011 10:45 AM
Christopher from Red Hook, Brooklyn

If we define a journalist as a person working for an "accredited publication" -- which is the same as defining them by the company they work for -- we are really just defining a journalist as a *corporation*... essentially giving special rights to corporations that we do not give to private individual citizens.

Feb. 10 2011 10:44 AM
urbangranolagirl from Jersey City

Just because the media has changed, doesn't meet the rights haven't. Would you have considered Thomas Paine a journalist?

Feb. 10 2011 10:44 AM
Christopher from Red Hook, Brooklyn

If we define a journalist as a person working for an "accredited publication" -- which is the same as defining them by the company they work for -- we are really just defining a journalist as a *corporation*... essentially giving special rights to corporations that we do not give to private individual citizens.

Feb. 10 2011 10:44 AM
Mike from Inwood

If bloggers are protected by shield laws, can they also be sued for liable?

Feb. 10 2011 10:43 AM
Tony Bruguier from Santa Clara, CA

That's a tough question.

What if someone starts a blog and describes her undercover work with the mob... but when she is actually *in* the mob.

What if traditional journalism dies off, and only bloggers remain? Would nobody have any protection.

Hummm

Feb. 10 2011 10:43 AM
banker now

Employers of journalists should be defined as providing a living wage and health insurance.

Feb. 10 2011 10:42 AM
David D from Manhattan

Journalists and bloggers should have the same rights as any other citizen, no more, no less. Shield laws are a mistake.

Feb. 10 2011 10:35 AM

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