Sunday, March 4, 2012

Extra Credit Post: What is a Journalist?

We've spent a lot of time this quarter talking about the things that journalists do. In our last class, I'd like us to consider a question: Are all the people who do the things we've discussed worthy of the title "journalist?"

The question is about more than semantics. In December, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a blogger in Portland was not a journalist, in a case that (coupled with others) could have major consequences. The Oregon blogger faces a $2.5 million defamation lawsuit filed by a company she has been investigating . She was seeking protection under Oregon's shield law, a law that protects journalists from having to divulge the identity of their sources in court. Her state's supreme court said she didn't have the credentials to qualify as a real "journalist." Read more about her story here and check out her blog here.

Also take a look at this story out of New Jersey, in which we learn about another case in which bloggers tried (and failed) to get the same legal protection afforded to traditional journalists. For reactions to the New Jersey case, click here and here.

So here is my question to you: What must one do to be considered a "journalist?" Or, perhaps more appropriately, what should one have to do to be considered a journalist? Talk in some depth about these questions, and consider the examples from New Jersey, Oregon and other places.

We will discuss your thoughts in class Thursday - you MUST participate in the group discussion to receive the full extra credit.