[Author’s note: This blog piece has been posted simultaneously here and on countywatchers with only a few words of the lead-in example altered]
What became obvious to me early on blogging here:
Public plan actuaries lie about everything for personal gain and to appease their patrons
What then became obvious, and disturbing, is that the media, what little of it there was (and is) covering real issues on this topic, did not seem to notice and the general public suffers to varying degrees due to their willful ignorance, self-interest, or simple laziness in admitting this useful piece of information into their coverage which would then explain a number of subsequent fiascoes that I chronicled here that always seemed to catch the general public by surprise and should have opened up those mainstream media outlets to derision, if not legal action.
It’s not happening and one new book even takes the position that it is the blogosphere that is intruding upon the news outlets who whore themselves out to those they cover. In The First Amendment Bubble: How Privacy and Pararazzi Threaten a Free Press, Amy Gajda argues that abuses by quasi-journalists (publishing mugshots and revenge-porn) is limiting what ‘real’ journalists get access to and she uses the example of The County Watchers (sic) in her book (from page 153):
Towards a Narrower Definition of “Journalist”
Further proof of the need to define journalist and journalism comes from courtrooms. Not surprisingly, judges similarly seem to be inclined toward a narrower definition.
A court in a 2013 case from Texas defined journalist narrowly. There, a labor union for service employees had published website posts as a part of a “Justice for Janitors” campaign and the union argued that such publications made it a member of the news media. It was an important issue because Texas gives electronic or print media special jurisdictional considerations, a distinction based upon the Constitution’s press freedoms. The court, forced to define journalism, decided that such posts did not qualify. “A ‘journalist,'” the court wrote, quoting Texas law, “is defined as ‘a person who for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain, writes news or information that is disseminated by a news medium.” It also suggested that other factors would contribute to such a determination: the author’s journalistic background, how established in journalism the reporter was, the character of the posts at issue, the editorial process involved including decisions based on the newsworthiness of stories, and the size and nature of the readership. Given the Texas law and those considerations, the court found that the union should not receive the special jurisdictional considerations that a traditional journalist would.
A New Jersey state court facing the definition issue that same year defined journalist more broadly and decided that a blogger who wrote for a website called The County Watchers would be protected under the state’s shield law, preventing her from having to testify regarding her journalistic research in a criminal case. The court found that the blogger’s posts on something the communi8ty called “Generatorgate,” her exposé on “Musicfest,” and her stories on pension padding and theft of county property, among others, would be considered “news” under the statue. Moreover, the court decided, the blogger’s purpose was to disseminate news to the community as opposed to publishing information for a limited audience. Given those considerations, the shield law – one written to protect “a person engaged on, engaged in, connected with, or employed by news media for the purpose of gathering…editing or disseminating news for the general public” – protected the blogger. In delineating between journalist and quasi-journalist, however, the court suggested that the definition for the former would not always be inclusive; it reiterated an earlier warning that “new media should not be confused with news media.” It also suggested that the legislature might further define the term within the shield law if it found it necessary given the “changing times.”
The trend seems to be going the Texas way – toward a narrower definition for journalist – even in cases far closer than that of a service union. Charles Tobin, a chair of the American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law and a media defense attorney, called the trend “disturbing” and worried that courts’ or legislators’ willingness to define who counts as a journalist would inevitably leave some legitimate truth-seekers outside the scope of protection.
As the courts ruled and Amy Gajda admitted (albeit as a counter-example to her main theory) Tina Renna is a journalist and a truth-seeker though she has a major advantage over her colleagues who report-for-pay: she is free to think for herself.