Citizen Journalists and 1st Amendment Rights

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Citizen Journalists and 1st Amendment Rights

Post by editor » Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:50 pm

Here's a post from a list I subscribe to. I haven't had a chance to explore any of these links, but it's an interesting topic. Some readers might have more time than I. If you find anything of special value, please post back.
We had a little buzz in this forum a week or two ago surrounding the question, "what is a 'journalist'?" It was a low-key affair, without great energy or acrimony, or citing of legal precedent, or anything like that. I think all of us were just speaking-from-the-hip (I know I was), without a great deal of heavy knowledge or emotional investment in the outcome, and the topic disappeared without fanfare.

This morning I just happened (in the course of researching something else) to learn that the question "Are bloggers 'journalists'" is actually an ongoing debate in some circles. I'd been unaware of that (then again, I never thought to study-up on it either). So I throw out here a few tidbits for those who may want to study further (I don't, vague awareness is enough for me). One case in question (Obsidian v. Cox) has its share of unsavory/unsympathetic characters, but ignoring that, the ultimate question is an interesting one: Do bloggers have the same 1st Amendment duties/responsibilities/protections/etc. that "traditional" journalists do? A 9th Cir district court trial and appeals panel have produced rulings (see links below), but there still appears to be a lot of play left in the game-at-large (that is, other than the Obsidial v. Cox case). ... d_laws.pdf ... -v-cox.pdf ... 1771165847 ... 1771165847 ... ts/283225/ ... -35238.pdf ... -v-cox.htm ... LLC_v._Cox ... el_web.pdf
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Re: Citizen Journalists and 1st Amendment Rights

Post by notmartha » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:05 pm

editor wrote:"Are bloggers 'journalists'"
editor wrote:Do bloggers have the same 1st Amendment duties/responsibilities/protections/etc. that "traditional" journalists do?
By legal definition, blogs are journals, therefor bloggers are considered journalists:

Short for "Web log," an online journal to which regular entries are posted. Some blogs cover a specific topic, and feature commentaries, videos, and/or other material on that subject; others function more as a personal diary. Many blogs are interactive, allowing readers to comment on posts.
Ethically, bloggers have the same responsibility as anyone else to publish honest, just material, and are liable for civil libel suits if they don't.

One blogger that comes to mind is Webster Tarpley, a mega-socialist who was sued by Trump for posting unfounded and vicious rumors about Melania on his blog. From the lawsuit:
As a result of Defendant's publication of defamatory statements about Plaintiff, Plaintiff's brand has lost significant value, and major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her have been lost and/or substantially impacted.

Tarpley wrote:

“Melania Trump’s lawsuit against me is without merit. Mrs. Trump is a public figure actively engaged in the Trump for president campaign. We are confident that Mrs. Trump will not be able to meet her high burden of proving the statements published about her on my website were defamatory in any way. Her lawsuit is a blatant attempt to intimidate not only me but journalists of all stripes into remaining silent with regard to public figures. This lawsuit is a direct affront to First Amendment principles and free speech in our democratic society,”

Notice he considers himself a journalist, and considers the 1st amendment to be applicable to him as a blogger. Tarpley and Trump settled out of court.
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