It’s December and motorcyclists are warned to take care during the winter months on the roads as icy conditions make for treacherous navigation. However, motorcycle bloggers have just skidded on the ice and hit the barrier!
I’m talking about Crystal Cox.
Ms Cox runs several law-centric blogs, like HERE, and HERE. She was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group in January for defamation, to the tune of $10 million, for writing several blog posts that were critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick. According to Portland’s U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez, Ms Cox isn’t entitled to the protections afforded to journalists — specifically, Oregon’s media shield law.
Oregon’s media shield law reads:
No person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public shall be required by … a judicial officer … to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise … [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]
The Seattle Weekly, has reported extensively on this case and has a lot of background if you want more of the details. It turns out that the U.S. District Court (i.e. Judge Hernandez) has drawn a line in the sand between “journalist” and “blogger” which at minimum creates an icy chill if not a complete freeze for any blogger engaged in snarky comments or trying to preserve the role of corporate watchdog.
The bottom line is that according to the court, Ms Cox didn’t qualify for Oregon’s media shield law since she wasn’t employed by a media establishment. She is a blogger, not a journalist. The penalty: $2.5 million which serves to effectively shut-down or silence an independent blogger and the free flow of information.
We all know that social media can provide the public the thrill of immediacy. It’s a real-time opportunity to explore relationships with the audiences circling our blog brands. Granted it can be at times an improv-type atmosphere, but the energy created by this immediacy is what ends up making social such a powerful performance medium. A medium of communicating to the public!
It now seems that unless bloggers have only nice things to say…the U.S. District Court has effectively criminalized the freedom of information in the blogging medium.
Reuters Handbook of Journalism HERE (pdf).
Photo taken in winter 2008