Saturday, April 5, 2008

Is Blogging Journalism?

In some jurisdictions, journalists are afforded protections that allow them to keep their sources confidential. The general reasoning behind these "shield laws" is that to get true freedom of the press, the press must be able to gather information without their sources having a fear of being exposed.

But is blogging journalism? Should a blogger, with no professional association, be allowed to shield his sources from the government in the name of journalistic freedom? The American Law Reports defines a reporter as:
includ[ing] reporters, editors, journalists, newspersons, correspondents, photographers, authors, student newspaper persons, and also all entities that gather, obtain, write, edit, or otherwise prepare information for newspapers, magazines, publishers, radio, and television.
60 A.L.R.5th n.1 (1998). It seems that most bloggers would not fit into this category - the ones that just blog for their own purposes, and not for a news media. To me, it makes sense that they should not, presumptively, be given this privilege, however each blogger's case could be considered individually (judicial efficiency people are probably cringing right now!). It doesn't take much to set up a blog. Allowing blogs to fall under journalistic privilege may lead to easily accomplished abuses of the system. Bloggers could get all of the benefits and face none of the accountability that regular journalists face.

A judge on the court of
In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller, 438 F.3d 1141 (C.A.D.C., 2006) (Sentelle, concurring) contains a survey of how "shield laws" applied to bloggers as of 2006. Sentelle's view is that extending the privilege to bloggers sets a dangerous precedent because of the lack of professional responsibility that often goes along with a blog.

1 comment:

kevin said...

I don't think the privilege should be extended to bloggers, but then I'm not a big fan of the privilege in the first place.

To have a special privilege of any kind ultimately necessitates some sort of licensing or accreditation (either ex ante or ex post) of the press. This kind of behavior by the government will always raise questions about self-censorship of the press and that is a very bad thing.