A court ruling last December would seem to indicate that no, bloggers are not privy to the same legal protections afforded so-called real journalists.
Via the Washington Examiner:
This past December, federal judge Marco Hernandez of Oregon issued a ruling in the libel trial of Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox that has dangerous First Amendment implications.
Hernandez ruled that blogger Crystal Cox was not entitled to the same protection under media shield laws that other members of the press enjoy. This ruling made it easy for a jury to find her guilty of libel. That result threatens the First Amendment rights of all citizen-journalists.
I would argue that the work being performed by bloggers can sometimes be far superior and more timely than that being manufactured by the main stream media. From my personal experience, every time that I have come across something for the first time on an outlet like MSNBC or CNN, and commence researching, that topic has already been widely covered in the blogosphere.
But we’re not debating quality of work here. We’re debating basic First Amendment rights.
In a terrific op-ed by Jason Stverak, a strong case to apply those rights to bloggers is made:
“… why is this issue so complicated? Bloggers, like all citizens of the United States, have First Amendment rights. Has the definition of a journalist changed? Or has perception and therefore legal definition simply not adjusted to modern technology?”
He adds that:
The public now relies on citizen-journalists to perform an invaluable service to our democracy — serving as government watchdogs.
Media shield laws must be revised to make clear that bloggers and all citizen-journalists deserve the same protection as the city hall beat-writer at the local newspaper.
If you believe that bloggers should be included in a state’s shield laws and granted Freedom of the Press rights, then please sign the petition at Protect Your Voice.
And please read the rest of the op-ed about bloggers and First Amendment rights here…