Court says that bloggers are journalists

by Mathew on May 27, 2006 · 7 comments

It appears that one of the perennial blogosphere vs. journalism questions — can bloggers be considered journalists, and therefore subject to the same protections? — has been answered in the affirmative by the California court of appeals, in the case of Apple vs. a bunch of rumour sites that spilled the beans on various new products before Steve-o wanted them to.

As the court put it: “In no relevant respect do they appear to differ from a reporter or editor for a traditional business-oriented periodical who solicits or otherwise comes into possession of confidential internal information about a company.” Pretty straightforward. The court also said:

“We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes ‘legitimate journalis[m].’ The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here. We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ news.

Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace.”

This is huge (assuming Apple doesn’t appeal, which I think they shouldn’t — but you never know with Steve). And it helps to quash the notion that journalism is somehow a secret art that only J-school graduates or carefully-trained acolytes can practice properly, a notion that many journalists would love to have accepted as reality, for obvious reasons.

In reality, journalism is something that just about anyone with a functioning brain-stem and a command of language can engage in, and that includes bloggers. You don’t have to have a license, you don’t have to pass a test (not even a spelling test) and there’s no college or body that regulates the practice — you just do it, and you’re either good or you’re not. Period.

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