In what could end up being very bad news for outspoken bloggers across America, a federal judge has decided that a blogger was not acting as a journalist when she accused an Oregon lawyer of acting unethically and illegally as a trustee in a bankruptcy hearing. The judge denied Crystal Cox's request for legal protections customarily offered to journalists, and a jury subsequently ordered her to pay $2.5 million for defaming lawyer Kevin Padrick and his company.
The judge said there was no evidence that Cox—who describes herself as an "investigative blogger"—had media credentials, an affiliation with any "recognized news entity," or that she had made any attempt to tell both sides of the story. The judge's ruling displays a "cramped and myopic" view of journalism, the director of the University of North Carolina center for media law and policy tells Reuters. "There is no accepted definition of journalism or who is a journalist," he says. "Judges have wisely shied away from wading into that debate unless they absolutely have to." Cox plans to appeal.