Monday, March 07, 2005

Who is a journalist?

The question of who is a journalist is one of the stickier wickets in the whole question of establishing a shield law for journalists. Telling a journalist from a non-journalist used to be a simple matter (or so it seemed). A journalist was a person employed by a media organization such as a newspaper or television station to gather and report news. Today, a journalist might be the guy who swabs autos at the local carwash by day and then hops on his weblog and reports and writes for an eager audience by night. The question came up a couple of weeks ago in the case of a couple of prominent journalists who are seeking to keep the names of a confidential source from a federal prosecutor, and it prompted this original posting on

The question of is playing out in a different way and in a different courtroom. A New York Times story by Jonathan Glater describes the issue in a California lawsuit where Apple is suing a blogger for publishing inside information about its products. The blogger is claiming protection of his sources under California's shield law. Should the judge rule that the blogger can be considered a journalist, it would open up the shield privilege for many people not working for traditional media outlets such as newspapers and television stations. The story says a ruling could come on this as early as this week.

Read more about journalism and issues facing the profession at

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