This week, an Oregon Federal court ruled that bloggers or any type of new media journalists do not qualify for the same protection rights as journalists working for a more traditional news entity (ie: newspapers, radio, TV stations). This ruling developed from a Oregon defamation case involving an investigative blogger, Crystal Cox, who refused to share her source, believing that she was covered by the Shield Law.
Each state has it's own flavor of Shield Law, some including new media and blogs and others strictly protecting "traditional" news sources. The court's judge, Marco Hernandez, ruled that Oregon's Shield Law solely protects these traditional sources of media, and added that Cox lacked substantial journalism education and “any credential of proof of any affiliation with a recognized news entity.”
Curious, as that the Oregon's shield law itself states:
No person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public shall be required by ... a judicial officer ... to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise ... [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]
The whole blogger vs. journalist debate is a hot topic in journalism school seminars — let me tell you what. Personally, I could never come to a succinct end-all point to where the credibility starts and the subjectivity of a "citizen journalist" ends. It really seems to be a case-by-case situation, which isn't what the Oregon (or any) courts want to hear.
So! I talked with Oakland freelance journalist and witty cartoonist, Susie Cagle, about the issue. Cagle has been avidly reporting Occupy Oakland happenings for different publications and her own blog, only to be arrested last month at Occupy for not holding "legitimate" press credentials. Whatever that means.
"When I told my arresting officer that I was press, I was first told, "We'll take care of that in a minute." That next minute turned into 15 hours in two different jails," wrote Cagle in an article describing her experience.
MORE ON HER STORY AFTER THE JUMP
A Columbia Journalism school grad, Cagle is frustrated by the blatant disrespect and distrust she gets while on the ground at Occupy, covering important issues that she says most local news entities miss.
"It's crazy that during this national civil unrest, now is the time that the nation can't protect journalists," she says. Cagle also notes how a plethora of "legitimate" media sources provide illegitimate, unbalanced information. "Incredibly bad reporting can come out of credible news sources."
On top of that, she says, it's becoming a class issue, where folks who can't afford J-school or to take unpaid internships loose "credibility." Instead of base credibility off of a journalism major or assign some kind of journalistic license, she says, it's time for journalists to stand up for themselves.
"In this economic climate for media, it's so important that we as journalists learn to build our own credibility," Cagle says. "Now of all times we need to provide a path for these journalists. it's the only way."