Are You a Journalist?
I remember sitting in a grad school course in journalism school listening to a twenty-something talk about how important blogging was going to become and how it’s changing the essence of journalism. I was so in disbelief as to what I was hearing that my chin was basically resting on my collarbone. THIS was the future of JOURNALISM?
That was almost 10 years ago. I got my master’s degree in journalism and I write for a slue of different publications—this blog being one of them.
At the beginning of this year, I was following the case of Crystal Cox, the “investigative blogger” who had been sued by the Obsidian Finance Group for defamation because she had blogged that the company had engaged in fraud. That’s a big accusation.
Initially, the blogosphere sounded the alarm at what seemed to be an attack by powerful moneyed interests on a crusading blogger. But a cursory investigation revealed that Ms. Cox employed a number of unorthodox tactics for a journalist, including registering dozens of domain names of people she perceived as her enemies in order to initiate serial and often profane salvos against them. —New York Times
She lost her case and was fined $2.5 million. According to U.S. District Court Judge, Marco A. Hernandez, Crystal Cox did not fit his definition of a journalist. Judge Hernandez’s qualifications to be a journalist are as follows:
- Education in journalism.
- Credentials or proof of affiliation with a recognized news entity.
- Proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest.
- Keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted.
- Mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his or her sources.
- Creation of an independent product, rather than assembling the writings and postings of others.
- Contacting “the other side” to get both sides of the story.
According to these guidelines, are you a journalist?
David Coursey, a contributor to Forbes.com, thinks he might be in trouble.
Hernandez’ #7, which requires contacting “the other side” to get both sides of the story isn’t really material to what I do. My journalism consists of opinion and commentary on technology news and my comments should be protected the same way a New York Times editorial is protected. —David Coursey
I believe the days of learning how to be a journalist on the job are long gone. I don’t know of many magazines or newspapers who will offer an internship to someone who isn’t in college or just out of college. Many of the internships I did during my college years were for college credit only. If you weren’t in college, you couldn’t intern—and if you don’t have your foot in the door somewhere, how are you going to learn?
I had a student once who was a low paid blogger in college. She most certainly thought she was a journalist, but I disagreed. Being paid to write about your opinions on college life does not a journalist make. Especially when you lack the technical writing skills, ethical knowledge, and experience in telling a non-biased story.
People who have a beef with a business can’t just go online and blog about untruths and expect to hide behind the first amendment. Reputations and money are at stake and a big business isn’t just going to roll over for just anyone.
My opinion is that Crystal Cox isn’t committing journalism on the two blogs I’ve seen associated with her…I am not taking sides, but her writing and sites would get most “real” journalists fired. —David Coursey
Crystal Cox calls herself an “altrusitc investigative blogger and reputation manager.” She considers herself to be a citizen journalist. To me she just sounds like an angry person with a bone to pick. Had I been in her shoes and was convinced of a company’s wrongdoing, I would have contacted a reputable publication (one with their own lawyers), sent them my pitch and proof, and let them sort it all out.
To me, it sounds like she wanted to be the next Erin Brockovich. Instead, she had to pony up a couple million dollars to the very people she was trying to expose. That had to hurt.