Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A blogger behind bars

"Blogging was a helluva lot easier when all we wrote about was our cats." writes Jeff Jarvis in today's Gaurdian Unlimited.

The problem: a blogger goes to jail in California for refusing to hand over video tape of a demonstration. The blogger insists that as a journalist, he does not have to hand over anything, citing the "yee olde" freedom of the press thing, as guarenteed in the U.S. Constitution.

It's a very interesting situation, and it's amazing that a mainstream journalist like Jarvis is siding with the bloggers on this one. But Jarvis makes an interesting point: you don't have to be a "journalist" to commit an act of journalism. Yes, even a humble blogger (like yours truly) can be deemed a "journalist" just by publishing yet another silly post on his web log. It's not the four year degree from Northwestern that makes you a journalist (with apologies to Andy Sachs), it's the act of publishing to the public, electronic or otherwise, that makes one a journalist.

<>< TM


Capt. Craig said...

I tried to post the following at the Guardian but was refused. Don't know why. No reason was given

I have a problem with this.
What sources is he protecting? Didn't he shoot the video himself?
Wouldn't a good citizen turn over to the authorities any evidence of illegal activity they possessed?

Am I missing something here?

The Capt.

theodicy said...

Hey Capt. Craig...

I do not know enough about the background of this story to understand why/why not the blogger in question did not want to give his video to the authorities.

However, it has been a long recognized principle in American journalism that in order to have freedom of the press, the press MUST have the ability to protect it's sources and it's source documents (and/or media).

The only exception I know to this is if the journalist is protecting someone/something that is blatantly illegal.

Having a video tape of a violent demonstration is not illegal. Though the demonstration may have broke some laws, there is no law against video taping such a thing. If that were the case, then we would have to prosecute all those news organizations & citizens who video taped the events of 9/11.

However...the authorities do have the right, and citizens the responsability, to hand over information about illegal activities and events if so ordered by a court of law. The reason for this is self-evident: it's too easy for most of us to NOT testify in a court of law to someone's wrong doing. That's why there are these things called subpeonas.

<>< TM