Saturday, March 05, 2005

Is this blog a member of the "press"?

Seems we might be headed to a ruling that says the internet isn't really the media. Perhaps the 'net isn't real?

This week, an attorney for Apple Computer argued
Free speech protection applied only to legitimate members of the press and not to website publishers. Freedom of the press was for the press, meaning the traditional media...
So the internet isn't legitimate? Notes the Dawn C. Chmielewski, a reporter for Mercury News and quoted on the Guerilla News Network,
In a case with implications for the freedom to blog, a San Jose judge tentatively ruled Thursday that Apple Computer can force three online publishers to surrender the names of confidential sources who disclosed information about the company’s upcoming products.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to extend to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material.

Kleinberg offered no explanation for the preliminary ruling....

The case raises issues about whether those who write for online publications are entitled to the same constitutional protections as their counterparts in more traditional print and broadcast news organizations.
This could have broad ramifications for all who publish on the web in attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights.
In its court filings, Apple argued that neither the free speech protections of the United States Constitution nor the California Shield Law, which protects journalists from revealing their sources, applies to the Web sites. The company said such protections apply only to “legitimate members of the press.”

The court earlier authorized Apple to serve subpoenas on the Web sites, seeking all documents related to Asteroid and information about anyone with knowledge of the postings about the product.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation fought the subpoenas, arguing the online publishers, like their print and broadcast counterparts, frequently rely on confidential sources to report on issues in the public interest.

“Compelled disclosure of journalists’ sources would have a devastating effect on the free flow of information,” said Kurt Opsahl, an EFF attorney. “It’s the lifeblood of a functioning democracy. Therefore the courts have to understand the vital connection between the confidentiality of sources and the freedom of the press.”
Okay, so we're not "legitimate members of the press." Are we members of the press?

Richard Menta asks "What makes a journalist a journalist?"
What makes a journalist? Is it someone with a journalism degree? Maybe it is more. Maybe, to be called a "real" journalist, you have to work for a big corporation. Maybe you need a slew of staff behind you like editors and copywriters and editorial assistants.

Or maybe you just have to publish.

But even here we find problems. Does publishing mean print and therefore anything scribed on the Web does not count? Some people feel that way, but TV and radio news folk count as journalists and they don't print anything.

It is funny how some of us define things.

According to laws still on the books one drop of black blood makes you black. By this definition wealthy white descendants of Thomas Jefferson can claim minority-based college aid based on his relationship with Sally Hemming. Few have attempted to change such laws because that would require someone to come up with a new definition of what constitutes an African American. Exactly how many drops of blood should it be?

My question is this, how many drops of blood define one as a journalist?
According to one Apple attorney, bloggers are nothing more than criminal middlemen:
Apple attorney George Riley told Kleinberg the company had already taken numerous steps to find the source of the leak.

"We questioned almost 30 people. We did computer forensics,'' Riley said. "We exhausted all practical means before we brought this lawsuit.''

Riley argued that the Web site operators do not deserve the protections given to journalists because they are not journalists. Echoing Kleinberg's question, he likened them to criminal middlemen.
So, there we are: we're not journalists; we're criminal middlemen. I wonder if the same was argued when people started using radio to deliver news, or television? I guess the only press that counts is print media?

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