First Amendment as vulnerable as Second

It seems that Freedom of the Press applies only to those who the Government
considers suitable to own and operate the press.
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Reply to
Jim Wilkins
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That's not the First Amendment, Jim. That's shield laws, which are of questionable constitutionality to begin with. I say that as someone who has made his living as a conventional journalist for roughly half of my career.
I've never fully bought the reasoning that gives journalists such extraordinary protection against claims of libel and defamation. If you libel someone, it's libel, no matter who you are.
The laws are designed to protect the mechanism of journalism by which we can publish rumor and unsubstantiated claims against public figures, without having to give up our sources. You can find individual cases to make either side of the issue. But, as the court implied, at the very least it hinges on an assumption of professional ethics on the part of most journalists. If every blogger is considered a journalist, that thin veil of justification is ripped to shreds.
I'm with the court on this one. The plaintiff still has to prove libel. The decision just keeps the blogger from hiding behind an assumption of journalistic ethics -- an iffy assumption to begin with.
Reply to
Ed Huntress
What bothers me is the qualification standard mentioned, which practically is a government-issued license to carry your opinion in public. "Hernandez said Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. She had no journalism education, credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story."
How many officially credentialed reporters and their editors would fail those tests? Have you ever seen a reporter characterize protesters they agree with as 'concerned citizens' while opponents were an 'angry mob'? I had the chance to talk to the publisher of that paper when she was hospitalized in the same room as my mother, and discovered she was further to the left than Lenin.
Ironically those reporters found themselves arguing that they weren't professionals when they wanted overtime pay.
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Reply to
Jim Wilkins
Well, that's the problem with the shield laws to begin with, IMO. There was a time when all of those qualifications meant a great deal. But bloggers and online "news" organizations have debased the currency beyond all recognition.
But even when it was all print, and when everything I wrote at McGraw-Hill needed the approval of three editors, at least one of whom fact-checked my stuff, and seriously or repeatedly violating ethics was a short trip to a pink slip with little chance of getting another job with a top-drawer publisher, there were plenty of questionable organizations and journalists who didn't qualify for those standards listed by the court.
It's always been a marginal call, IMO. Today, it's a joke.
See above.
That's not libel, that's bias. Bias is legal. Libel is not. If one doesn't recognize the difference, he should stay out of the business. He just doesn't get it.
Like police or firefighters.
Reply to
Ed Huntress
Bias hasn't always been legal either:
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I don't want to see the third estate claiming a more favorable interpretation of the First Amendment for themselves than they accept for outsiders.
Reply to
Jim Wilkins
Without knowing your age it's hard to know what to say here, except that the Fairness Doctrine was the product of facts on the ground during the early days of broadcasting, when there were few channels (we got two TV stations, and considered ourselves lucky) and when TV, particularly, wound up in a legal twilight zone between newspapers and common carriers, such as the telephone companies. The FD was based on the common-carrier side of the law, and similar legal principles apply today for other common carriers. When cable came in, the FD went out.
But bias has always been part of the free press, more before 1950 than at any time since. Now the Internet is turning it into a yellow-journalism free-for-all again, like it was in the early days of thr country. Bias is the normal state of the media, and works OK as long as the opportunities to publish contrary views are readily available.
As for journalists and the shield laws, as I said, I generally agree that the constitutuional and philosophical basis for them, IMO, is pretty flimsy. They came about largely because of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, and a series of revelations about government(s) using their power to intimidate journalists from covering corruption and governmental abuses. Again, you can cite individual cases that, on one hand, will convince almost anyone that journalism needs some extra protections to fulfill the intent of the First Amendment's press freedom, and you can cite other cases that make the protections themselves look like abuses.
We may disagree about this, but my view is that bloggers have debased the whole enterprise and make special protections for the press even more problematic. My blood boils when I see intentional slander and libel hiding behind shield laws. In the balance, I'd be glad to do away with those laws, given the present state of journalism.
Reply to
Ed Huntress

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