When Is A Blogger A Journalist?

The banner on Crystal L. Cox's website says "investigative blogger." But a federal judge in Oregon says this does not make Cox a journalist and as a result, she is not entitled to the same protections as traditional journalists.

Cox was sued for defamation after she wrote that attorney Kevin Padrick was a thug and a thief for his part in a bankruptcy case. Cox said she considered herself a journalist, and that Oregon's shield law protects her from the defamation suit--but the judge disagreed.

What Makes A Journalist?

The judge said that her blog was not a news entity and that she had no journalism credentials and she therefore was not protected by the shield law.

The judge also took issue with the fact that Cox called the lawyer a thug and a thief based on what unnamed sources told her.

Ellyn Angelotti, of the Poynter Institute said that the unnamed sources raise red flags.

"Anytime that you're making a bold claim, it's important that you're able to substantiate that claim and the best way is with on-the-record sources who will stand by what they say," she told Here & Now's Robin Young.

Who Is Liable For Defamation?

Angelotti said that Cox's case shows the many issues that have come up now that so many people are able to independently publish on the Internet.

"In the past, the only people who had to be able to protect themselves were publishers and those in mainstream media," she said.

Angelotti says that in the new news cycle where everyone can be a publisher, "Everyone needs to realize what they're potentially liable for."


  • Ellyn Angelotti, Poynter Institute

This segment aired on December 8, 2011. The audio for this segment is not available.


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