One manifestation of this narrowing is the creation of journalistic "shield laws." The intent of these laws may be noble as they to provide protection for investigation and reporting of malfeasance. However, they may only apply to officially designated journalists. For example, the AP reported on December 7, 2011 that:
A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a Montana woman sued for defamation was not a journalist when she posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally during a bankruptcy case, a decision with implications for bloggers around the country.The law in question in the Cox case was a state law, but the trend is larger. On September 12, 2013 AP reported the following:
Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., was sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick when she posted online that he was a thug and a thief during the handling of bankruptcy proceedings by him and Obsidian Finance Group LLC.
A Senate panel on Thursday approved legislation designed to protect reporters and the news media from having to reveal their confidential sources after narrowing the definition of a journalist and establishing which formats - traditional and online - provide news to people worldwide.I personally find this astounding. I sometimes interview people to provide material for blogs. These interviews are almost always done confidentially because the people are not authorized to make public statements regarding their companies. This is exactly the same situation that "official" reporters are in for many of their stories. However, they would be afforded shield protection, and I wouldn't.
The compromise also says that information is only privileged if it is disseminated by a news medium, described as "newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or otherwise); news program, magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic or other format; or thorough television or radio broadcast ... or motion picture for public showing."
While the definition covers traditional and online media, it draws the line at posts on Twitter, blogs or social media from non-journalists.
We seem to be on a path to constrict the definition of the "press". No longer will it be the larger world of non-verbal communications, whether pencil, ink, electronic, sign language or smoke signals. Now it will be the narrow world of J-school grads writing for the AP.