A federal judge in Oregon ruled Wednesday that a blogger in Montana is not protected by the law as a traditional journalist. Crystal Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Montana, posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally in a bankruptcy proceeding. The ruling has media experts concerned about the protection of online journalists. The Associated Press article stated:
"Although media experts said Wednesday that the ruling would have little effect on the definition of journalism, it casts a shadow on those who work in nontraditional media since it highlights the lack of case law that could protect them and the fact that current state shield laws for journalists are not covering recent developments in online media."
The article went on to state: "(the judge) said (the blogger)Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. She had no journalism education, credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story."
The blogger in question said, "she considered herself a journalist, producing more than 400 blogs over the past five years, with a proprietary technique to get her postings on the top of search engines where they get the most notice."
This ruling sets a dangerous precedent for freelance bloggers that have no formal affiliation with a recognized traditional media outlet. With the scarcity of case law on digital journalism to date, this ruling could give federal judges in many states the impetus to open online bloggers to lawsuits that traditional journalists are protected from.
Is it time for a federal shield law that includes protection for online journalists? Should there be a credentialing process? What are your thoughts?