Tag Archives: Reynolds Defence

The problem with defining ‘a journalist’

Cleland Thom writes in Press Gazette today about the list of requirements specified by an Oregon judge before a person could claim protection as a journalist in his court.

  1. Journalism education.
  2. 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.
  4. Keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted.
  5. Mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources.
  6. Creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others.
  7. Contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story.

This seems a reasonable enough list of criteria – I’m interpreting the phrasing of the judge’s opinion as indicating that any single of these criteria would suit, rather than all 7 (as is the case in the Reynolds defence mentioned by Thom).

But I think there’s a broader problem (unrelated to the specific case in Oregon, which was about a protection from being sued for libel only afforded to journalists) with trying to certify individuals as journalists when more  journalism is done collaboratively. If, for example, one person researches the regulations relating to an issue, another FOIs key documents; a third speaks to a victim; a fourth speaks to an expert; a fifth to the person resposible; and a sixth writes it all up into a coherent narrative – which one is the journalist?

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