A lawsuit against an Oregon blogger has prevailed, at least for now…
A U.S. District Court judge in Portland has drawn a line in the sand between “journalist” and “blogger.” And for Crystal Cox, a woman on the latter end of that comparison, the distinction has cost her $2.5 million.
Speaking to Seattle Weekly, Cox says that the judgement could have impacts on bloggers everywhere.
It was a defamation suit. The plaintiff alleged that Ms.Cox had written many things about him that were untrue and malicious; the judged tossed all but one of the counts, but since Ms.Cox couldn’t verify the truth of the statement – well, if you’d read my series over the fall about defamation, you’d know that can be a bad thing for the respondent.
“This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet,” she says.
As well it should. If you write malicious, defamatory things that aren’t true, there should be consequences. I have no idea if Cox is or is not guilty of defaming her accuser – and I hope that justice prevails, whatever it is in this case.
Now here’s where the case gets more important: Cox argued in court that the reason her post was more factual was because she had an inside source that was leaking her information. And since Oregon is one of 40 U.S. states including Washington with media shield laws, Cox refused to divulge who her source was.
But without revealing her source Cox couldn’t prove that the statements she’d made in her post were true and therefore not defamation, or attribute them to her source and transfer the liability.
Here’s where it gets skeevy:
Oregon’s media shield law reads:
No person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public shall be required by … a judicial officer … to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise … [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]
The judge in Cox’s case, however, ruled that the woman did not qualify for shield-law protection not because of anything she wrote, but because she wasn’t employed by an official media establishment.
So – the rules change if you get a paycheck from a legacy media organization?
I’m not sure if Cox is guilty or not – but the mainstream media should get no special protections the rest of society don’t get.