Monday, March 28, 2005

Do bloggers deserve basic journalistic protections?

David Shaw at the
Los Angeles Times (reg. req.) answers this rhetorical question in his Media Matters column.

Some highlights:

"...BLOGGERS require no journalistic experience. All they need is computer access and the desire to blog. There are other, even important differences between bloggers and mainstream journalists, perhaps the most significant being that bloggers pride themselves on being part of an unmediated medium, giving their readers unfiltered information. And therein lies the problem.....

....Many bloggers — not all, perhaps not even most — don't seem to worry much about being accurate. Or fair. They just want to get their opinions — and their "scoops" — out there as fast as they pop into their brains. One of the great advantages of the Internet, many Web lovers have told me, is that it's easy to correct an error there. You can do it instantly, as soon as the error is called to your attention, instead of having to wait until the next day's paper.....

Reporters in 31 states, including California, as well as Washington, D.C., are protected by shield laws. Most of those laws — and California's in particular — provide more protection than does the 1st Amendment itself. That's why the Bush administration is pursuing its cases in federal court, where state shield laws don't apply. That's also why many journalists — and several congressmen — are actively seeking a federal shield law.

I strongly favor such a law, and in this climate we have to be careful about when and under what circumstances we apply and assert the journalist's privilege. If the courts allow every Tom, Dick and Matt who wants to call himself a journalist to invoke the privilege to protect confidential sources, the public will become even less trusting than it already is of all journalists.

That would ultimately damage society as much as it would the media."
The MSM fights back.

But, how do you distinguish the NEW media from the old?

And how do you distinguish the application of the journalistic shield to prevent government interference in a free press? Distinguish by whom employs you?


Shaw raises the questions but fails in the answers.

Update #1

Dodo David over at Lifelike Pundits has a good take in his piece entitled MSM vs. Bloggers:

In a letter to Poynter Online's Jim Romenesko, Weldon Berger criticizes David Shaw's LA Times piece Do bloggers deserve basic journalistic protections?.

Here is an excerpt from Berger's letter to Romenesko:

"There are something like ten million bloggers out there and many of them are as nasty and feckless as they come (and would shriek with laughter at being accused of pretending to journalism). But institutional journalism, with its lofty standards and fail-safes, has its own serial offenders, its Nedra Picklers and Judith Millers and such, who regularly trigger the hackery alarms. Those two should have lifetime invites to the press critics ball, and they'd never lack for a dance with their peers. The notion that they're more deserving of legal protections than their more responsible blogging counterparts in similar straits would be laughable if it weren't so frickin' irritating.

Given the flaws in his own reporting, Shaw should probably be asking bloggers, many of whom survive and thrive - accurately - with only spell-checking, Google and common sense at their disposal rather than an armada of editors, for lessons on how to get things right."

Over on his own blog, Weldon Berger writes the following:
"Los Angeles Times media critic David Shaw has a column in Sunday’s paper in which he argues for the reservation of source shield privileges to bought-and-paid-for journalists, excluding, I trust (for no good reason), the ones who have been bought and paid for twice: once by their employers and once by the government.

It’s an epic low-grade temper tantrum from an unreservedly elitist journalist who continues to project his own and his profession’s failings onto the backs of bloggers."

Read more here.

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