Paul and Fred and I were having a conversation over lunch the other day about bloggers and reporters and First Amendment rights, and lo and behold, I stumble across this article: Bloggers Blur the Definition of Reporters’ Privilege, from The New York Sun (via Boing Boing).
Of course, for all I know, Paul was thinking of this story during that conversation.
This story mentions the Claus von Bulow case, where Andrea Reynolds
asserted reporter’s privilege on the grounds that she was preparing to write about his case for a German magazine and for the New York Post. She also said she was preparing a book. The courts turned aside her claim, primarily because Ms. Reynolds did not produce any evidence that she had ever published a word about the case.
So do I understand this correctly: you’re considered a journalist only if you’ve previously published as a journalist? I know nothing about the von Bulow case, but did Reynolds have any kind of contract with this German magazine or the New York Post? Or a book contract? I sure hope not, because if she had a contract and was still denied by the courts, then it means that it was irrelevant that she was under a legal contract to function as a journalist. And the courts would have thereby created a circular definition of “journalist”: you are one only if you’ve been one in the past.
Anyway, it seems to me that the issue here is one of the nature of the filter, or more accurately the existence of a filter: if you’re published by a traditional media outlet you’re a journalist, and if you self-publish you’re not. Surely there were self-publishing reporters (who had actually published things) before blogs existed, so I wonder how issues of their sources’ confidentiality handled were in the courts. Maybe if I’d read We the Media I would know all of this already and I wouldn’t be having this conversation with myself.