Monday, January 20, 2014

The Citizen Journalist In America - 3

The Citizen Journalist
On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is appropriate to review the role of the citizen blogger in the context of journalism.

I say that because some news will not make it to the people if the people have to rely on the main stream media alone (Blind Willie McTell News).

To tie this together, note that the main stream media does not inform the public about certain things concerning Dr. King; for example, the main stream media did not attend the trial which established that the conspiracy to murder him was proven in a court of law.

Nor was the earth-shaking news spread across the land so that the people could become aware of it -- no, it was and still is used as just another "conspiracy theory."

But the citizen journalist blog Dredd Blog did:
THE COURT: In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther King, your answer is yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also yes ... Is that your verdict?

THE JURY: Yes (In unison).
(Dr. King Is Remembered). The value of the citizen journalist to the public is also emphasized in a recent federal case where a blogger was sued for defamation.

In that very recent case where a bankruptcy trustee sued a blogger for defamation, the court held that bloggers are equal to journalists who have First Amendment protections:
This case requires us to address a question of first impression: What First Amendment protections are afforded a blogger sued for defamation? We hold that liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages.
We agree with our sister circuits. The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story. As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable: “With the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media . . . the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.” Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 352. In defamation cases, the public-figure status of a plaintiff and the public importance of the statement at issue—not the identity of the speaker—provide the First Amendment touchstones.

We therefore hold that the Gertz negligence requirement for private defamation actions is not limited to cases with institutional media defendants.
(Obsidian v Cox, Federal Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, PDF). The court reversed a jury verdict against a blogger who had said some things about the bankruptcy trustee in various blog posts.

The previous post in this series is here.


  1. The militarization of the local police is beginning with phony terrorism charges in state courts. Link

  2. Great post Dredd.