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March 25, 2002

Credentialism, revisited Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in the last post. I’m pretty sure the 70-year-old guy in the Seattle case is no innocent victim. He appears to have a long record of harrassing his neighbors and others on the Web, on Usenet, and elsewhere, and I don’t mean to imply that it’s never appropriate for a judge to order someone to refrain from behavior that’s at issue in an ongoing case.

What I’m trying to say is that, notwithstanding distinctions that may or may not have been made in the past, it’s no longer appropriate to base such orders (or other legal arguments or decisions) on whether someone is a credentialed journalist or not. In the 21st century, we’re all journalists. (Whether this was in fact an element of the judge’s reasoning is a question currently being investigated by our gigantic research staff.) [12:15 PM]

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Comments on Credentialism, revisited:

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2002, 02:02 PM:

Yeah. That's a fair comment, and I'll bet a large bottle that this isn't what happened here. I'm willing to bet that this guy got nailed on a flat-out libel charge, and then tried to raise the "I'm a journalist" defense, and the judge didn't buy it.aaRemember -- being a journalist does *not* buy you protection from libel. Indeed, it's one of the ways that the journalist's right to protect sources can get broken. aaI want to see the court order, and see the case records and rulings. I really do think that equating this to Vannessa Leggett is a huge mistake -- but the records will either vindicate me or prove me wrong.aaAnd, one thing scares me -- claiming that anybody can claim journalist's privs won't mean that there will be more free speech for everyone -- it'll mean that there will be *no* protection of sources. I'm not willing to make that trade, since it would be the destruction of the free press.

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2002, 11:23 PM:

Erik, where do you find "journalist's privileges" in the First Amendment? In those days, as in all days, anyone could be a "journalist," or publish a pamphlet, if they were able to write, and had access to a press. Since when was a license or special dispensation required, and who grants it, on what authority, by what test, and at what cost to us all?

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2002, 04:54 PM:

The Constitution has nothing to do with the right to protect one's sources. That's covered on a state-by-state basis, and a number of states have no such protections. (The Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press has an excellent guide to laws governing confidential sources.) There is limited First Amendment protection against being compelled to testify about what a reporter has witnessed firsthand, but there's no Federal-level shield law protecting a journalist from contempt charges if he or she refuses to reveal his or her sources. If people begin using shield laws as a dodge -- which I don't feel was the case at all in Leggett's case, don't get me wrong -- there's nothing to stop state legislatures from revising the laws or doing away with them altogether.

Earl Cooley ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2002, 01:35 PM:

Well, you can always get an ISSN for your weblog: http://www.fawny.org/issn.html