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Blogger Not Covered By Journalists' Legal Protection: Fined $2.5 Million

     

engine

3:59 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Blogger Not Covered By Journalists' Legal Protection: Fined $2.5 Million [guardian.co.uk]
A blogger in the US state of Oregon has just been ordered by a court to pay $2.5m (£1.6m) to an investment company because of a defamatory posting.

Crystal Cox was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group for writing several blog posts that were highly critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick.

She argued in Portland district court that she should have the same legal protection that is afforded to journalists.

"Although [the] defendant is a self-proclaimed 'investigative blogger' and defines herself as 'media,' the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law."

wheel

4:01 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Bizarre. A lot of bloggers have more integrity than the mainstream media these days (who I consider to be nothing more than glory/cash hounds). Anderson Cooper should be afforded more rights than a blogger? For what reason?

The media has been nothing more than big business for decades, perhaps forever.

netmeg

4:07 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I wouldn't be surprised if it gets overturned. But maybe not.

woop01

4:26 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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At the risk of being on the wrong side of things, if title of the site you think you deserve journalistic privilege for includes the word “sucks”, I’ve got no sympathy for you. Don't act like a child and then claim you deserve to be treated like an adult.

seoskunk

4:54 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"Oregon's shield law doesn't explicitly include bloggers in its list."

Thats because its out of date!

wheel

5:00 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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t the risk of being on the wrong side of things, if title of the site you think you deserve journalistic privilege for includes the word “sucks”,

I don't disagree with the sentiment - except to again point out that if you're applying those standards to mainstream media, many of them are likely to fail as well.

engine

5:33 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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With every man and his dog with a blog, how could it be covered by journalists' protection! It cannot.

Defining a journalist has become blurred only because everyone can publish what they want to the wider audience. Journalists' credentials are much more than just having a blog, imho.

ThatsBoBo

6:05 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Definition of JOURNALIST

1a : a person engaged in journalism; especially : a writer or editor for a news medium

b : a writer who aims at a mass audience

seoskunk

6:29 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Definition of JOURNALIST

1a : a person engaged in journalism; especially : a writer or editor for a news medium

b : a writer who aims at a mass audience


That seems to cover a blogger ....

On the plus side she got a great link out of the story :) I wonder if this will be another "Streisand effect"

bwnbwn

7:27 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Does this open rippoff to a lawsuit, does this open anybody that post a bad review. The lawsuit wasn't because of the domain name but a post she made that was more opinion than fact. I hope somebody with some brains gets the appeal and throws it out it is wrong.

buckworks

7:38 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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She was convicted in a trial by jury and found guilty of defamation.

This page has links to court documents regarding the case:
[citmedialaw.org...]

From the judgement:

"Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist. For example, there is no evidence of (1) any education in journalism; (2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity; (3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest; (4) keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted; (5) mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources; (6) creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others; or (7) contacting "the other side" to get both sides of a story. Without evidence of this nature, defendant is not "media.""


The bottom line is that if you're going to call yourself a journalist, you have to follow the disciplines of a journalist.

seoskunk

7:43 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The bottom line is that if you're going to call yourself a journalist, you have to follow the disciplines of a journalist.


She would be defined a journalist in Washington it seems

Bruce E. H. Johnson, attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, is a veteran litigator in the field of free speech and media law. In 2006 he drafted Washington state's media shield legislation, and in 2007 the state legislature passed it into law.
He has stated "I believe the shield law would have been applied [in Washington state],Oregon's law was probably written before blogging was accounted for."


Also references Apple case where Apple sued a blogger who had published leaked information from the company. The blogger had refused to reveal the source of the leaked information, and after a long, arduous path through the courts, the 6th District U.S. Court ruled that the blogger was in fact a media member and therefore did not have to turn over the information.
Source [blogs.seattleweekly.com...]

buckworks

8:06 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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From seoskunk's link:

As for Cox, Johnson says that even if the court had ruled that she didn't have to reveal her source, she likely still would have had to reveal the source if she wanted to prove her statements were true and therefore weren't defamatory. In other words, the shield law, even if applied, might not have shielded Cox from the $2.5 million judgement she's been ordered to hand over.

weeks

8:18 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Exactly buckworks.

Shield laws, while well-intended perhaps, are contrary to the first amendment. Journalism can be a tough biz. You might have to go to jail to protect your sources in order to get the truth out, but that's the biz. Tough, yes, but we should not create a separate class of citizens.

seoskunk

8:19 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Its a good point buckworks touché (he,he)

However I do think this is a case of the law being out of date. Bloggers certainly can be defined as journalists and therefore I think the judgement will be appealed. Crucially Johnson says the shield law might not have protected her but it should have been applied.

buckworks

8:31 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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You might have to go to jail to protect your sources in order to get the truth out, but that's the biz.


Yes.

It's rare for things to come to that, though, as often the protected source will come forward rather than see the journalist go to jail.

In the case before us, Cox made a bunch of harmful statements ... presented as facts not opinions ... that she couldn't prove were true.

Any normal journalist would know to expect trouble from that.

[edited by: buckworks at 8:41 pm (utc) on Dec 7, 2011]

seoskunk

8:38 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Any normal journalist would expect trouble from that.


True, however she should have been treated and entitled to the same protection of any other normal journalist

buckworks

8:46 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The court did not dismiss her claim to be a journalist merely because she was a blogger.

Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist


(emphasis added)

seoskunk

8:53 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Johnson states that Oregon law was probably written before blogging was accounted for.

A classic case of the law being out of date. Cox in both California and Washington would be defined as a journalist.

bwnbwn

8:58 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In the case before us, Cox made a bunch of harmful statements ... presented as facts not opinions ... that she couldn't prove were true.

I have reviewed quite a bit more than I probably should have but my first post was off the hip and without any true research. After what I have reviewed even if she was protected as a "journalist" what buck says is true. The courts would have still awarded the plaintiff the judgement. Looks like she got carried away, way way into right field, and the company just had to stop her ranting. I am sure if this was being waged against anyone of us in here we would do what we had to do to stop this. Put it up show us the evidence prove to an open court our company has done the things your reporting as fact. Like a convicted convict says do the crime pay the time. She had her day in court and failed.

What she probably found out her source wasn't really a source but someone that got a kick from the whole drama deal. There are many drama loving people that will lie to stir the honey. All you have to do is watch some TV and see the drama shows playing today.

buckworks

9:20 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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wasn't really a source but someone that got a kick from the whole drama deal


If there really was a source, even just a drama-seeker, it will be interesting to see if the person comes forward to corroborate anything Cox wrote, or if they leave her on the hook for the damage award.

Demaestro

10:35 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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What I find curious is that if she were being charged with copyright infringement she wouldn't be able to argue that she:

"is [not] affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she"

... can't possibly be considered a publisher and can't be considered as having republished anything.


I think having a website is in of itself a news/opinion publication and that should be enough to qualify her as a reporter for said website.

bwnbwn

10:35 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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She will file for bancrupcy get if off her back and move on. I doubt with the same can't touch me type attitude.

Demaestro

10:44 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The bottom line is that if you're going to call yourself a journalist, you have to follow the disciplines of a journalist.


That is very idealistic. Ever heard of a little rag called National Inquirer? Are people who write stories there considered journalists by this judges definition? Would you consider them as following the disciplines of a journalist?

How about TMZ? They would consider someone working a "news story" at TMX a journalist, but why? Just because they have an affiliation with a TV program? Would you consider TMZ staff as having followed the disciplines of a journalist?

I would argue that most bloggers are 10x the news persons than anyone working at TMZ. I think that "following the disciplines of a journalist" is not a good way of determining who is and isn't a journalist.

To me, someone is a journalist if they have ever reported anything to the public. Including breaking stories on Twitter or a blog. The attack on Bin Laden reported by a guy at a cafe on Twitter comes to mind.

buckworks

11:18 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I don't know enough about TMZ to comment.

if they have ever reported anything to the public


I'm curious: what standards would you expect from such folks about getting their facts straight?

Demaestro

11:39 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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what standards would you expect from such folks about getting their facts straight?


The same standard as anyone else who is claiming to be a journalist, and I will add that it should be a higher standard than the one the National Inquirer puts on it's "journalists".

"Journalists" at The Inquirer live in a loop hole. What they do is, when someone calls in and says they saw something, (for example a women giving birth to a vampire baby) then the Inquirer will publish the story... they have a strict policy of not following up with the source. They don't want to confirm stories because they don't care if they are true or not. If they get in trouble for publishing a lie they simply say "We had a tip from a source, we are reporting what the source said"

If so called journalists at the Inquirer can knowingly lie just because they got a tip from a source they they never follow up on then why can't this lady? I don't think this system of blindly reporting what a source told you is a good thing. I am not even arguing that this woman shouldn't have a judgment against her.

I am saying she is a journalist and the court making a ruling that she isn't is ridiculous when publications like the Inquirer do this daily for massive profits on a large scale.

How many celebs have sued tabloid publications like the Inquirer and failed because of this loop hole? Lots, some have prevailed, many haven't.

I think what this women did is much less offensive then most things I see in those rags.

lucy24

11:44 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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She was convicted in a trial by jury and found guilty of defamation.

Uhm, no, she wasn't, unless there's a whole separate story that neither the Guardian nor the Seattle Times saw fit to mention. She was sued, meaning it's a civil case, not criminal. And there is no mention of a jury; the article consistently refers to the judge's decision.

$2.5m is silly, though. It would have more impact if the court assessed damages that an individual human could realistically pay.

seoskunk

11:49 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm curious: what standards would you expect from such folks about getting their facts straight?


Maybe she could have hacked their mobile phones.........Ah sorry that would be
News Corp then

buckworks

11:56 pm on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

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it should be a higher standard than the one ...


Yes, but what should the standard be? Explain, please.

FWIW, the folks who award the Pulitzer prizes have historically considered the Enquirer not to be eligible.

buckworks

12:12 am on Dec 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

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She was convicted in a trial by jury and found guilty of defamation.


Uhm, no, she wasn't, unless there's a whole separate story that neither the Guardian nor the Seattle Times saw fit to mention ... no mention of a jury; the article consistently refers to the judge's decision


Lucy, I invite you to peruse the judge's instructions to the jury: [citmedialaw.org...]

And the jury's verdict: [citmedialaw.org...]

The case went to a one-day trial on November 29, 2011. The jury in the case found for the plaintiff Obsidian for $1,000,000, and for Kevin Padrick for $1,500,000.


(All of those are from the link I provided earlier [citmedialaw.org...] )

Real journalists (and real scholars) look up the original documents.
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