Knight Center
Knight Center


U.S. court rules Oregon blogger not a journalist

Calling into question the definition of who is a journalist, a federal jury in Oregon declared a blogger guilty of defamation and the judge ruled that the blogger did not qualify certain protections afforded journalists, The Oregonian reported on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The case revolves around a blogger from Eureka, Mont., Crystal Cox, who was accused of defamation when she claimed on her blog that Kevin Padrick, an attorney from Oregon, had committed tax fraud and bribed journalists and judges. She also criticized the firm Obsidian Finance Group, which Padrick co-founded. Cox has been ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages, according to The Guardian.

"I'm trying to expose the corruption in the Summit bankruptcy," Cox said on Tuesday, as quoted by The Oregonian. "I was telling other people's story as a journalist and I was denied media standing."

While Cox refers to herself as an "investigative blogger" and runs more than 400 websites -- many related to corporate corruption -- U.S. District Court Judge Marco Hernandez said Cox is not a journalist because "there is no evidence of (1) any education in journalism; (2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity; (3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking or disclosures of conflicts of interest."

Because Oregon is one of 40 states with shield laws for journalists, Cox refused to reveal her sources and thus could not "prove that the statements she'd made in her post were true and therefore not defamation, or attribute them to her source and transfer the liability," explained Seattle Weekly.

Criticizing laws that are so specific as to define terms like "reporter" or "news media," Michael Miner wrote for the Chicago Reader, "The law should speak to us in first principles, and the newest first principle of journalism is that anyone can be a reporter for the next 15 minutes."

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