Jim Lakely on a troubling precedent:
[A] New Jersey state appellate court last week ruled that a woman named Shellee Hale is not a “real” journalist, but just a blogger, so is not protected by the state’s shield law.
I’m not a huge fan of shield laws, which can be overused at times. But I’m less of a fan of branches of government deciding who is a “real” journalist and who is not. The court pronounces: “Simply put, new media should not be confused with news media.” I would agree, but not for the reasons stated by the court. Lakely excerpts these quotes from the decision:
“[Hale] exhibited none of the recognized qualities or characteristics traditionally associated with the news process, nor has she demonstrated an established connection or affiliation with any news entity.”
“[Hale had] no connection to any legitimate news publication.”
“… nor has [Hale] demonstrated adherence to any standard of professional responsibility regulating institutional journalism, such as editing, fact-checking or disclosure of conflicts of interest.”
A parade of one-liners is struggling to escape my lips here. I’ll just turn the mike over to Lakely:
That last one makes me guffaw. It was just bloggers who fact-checked the bogus story that got “real journalism” titan Dan Rather fired from CBS. In fact, bloggers have lately done a lot of excellent and valuable public-service journalism.
It was the blogosphere, not “institutional journalism,” that smoked out Obama “Green Czar” Van Jones as a 9/11 Truther, proud communist and all-round radical nut-job. MSM organs like The New York Times and The Washington Post were essentially left to report on his resignation after the fact. The poor, in-the-dark readers of those “legitimate news publications” were left with little details as to why.
Same story for former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. It was the blogosphere that reported the story that Dunn said one of her “favorite” political philosophers was the mass murdering communist Mao Tse-Tung. The organs of “institutional journalism,” again, only picked up the story as she was being shown the door.
And then there’s Andrew Breitbart, an indispensable one-man truth squad. He has put the lie to the story, pushed by Democrats to the stenographers at “legitimate news publications,” that Tea Party protesters in Washington hurled the “n-word” at members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they walked to vote on ObamaCare. Unlike the “institutional journalist” crowd, Breitbart is willing to put his money where his reporting is, offering to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone can show proof to debunk him. So far, no takers — even among the members of Congress who walked through the crowd with recording devices rolling to catch the Tea Partiers in racist spasms.
I’ll add one more observation. If adherence to journalistic principles is critical to a reporter’s application of a shield law, then the reporters at the L.A. Times might have a problem. Editing? Fact-checking? Disclosure of conflicts of interest? Have you read this site for the last seven years?
If you’re an L.A. Times source, be afraid. Be very afraid.