The blurred lines between bloggers and journalists have become a little more defined following last week's ruling from a New Jersey state court. In Too Much Media v. Hale the judges ruled that New Jersey's shield law did not apply to bloggers claiming to be journalists and stated: "Simply put, new media should not be confused with news media."
According to Law.com, this is only the second ruling in the US to address whether bloggers can “invoke the newspersons' privilege to protect the identity of their sources.”
The case centers on a message board post by Shelle Hale, on Oprano.com, a site that refers to itself as "the Wall Street Journal for the online adult entertainment industry."
According to Law.com report:
Hale accused Too Much Media of engaging in fraud and "illegal and unethical use of technology," violating New Jersey's Identity Theft Protection Act and profiting from the theft of e-mail addresses stolen by hackers in a 2007 security breach.
Discussing a competitor's lawsuit against Too Much Media, she wrote that the company's principals "may threaten your life if you report any of the specifics."
Hale claimed her comments were made in the course of investigating criminal activity in the Internet porn industry and were meant to inform the public and facilitate debate about frauds, scams and misuse of technology.
However the NJ court saw things differently and ruled that message board comments did not pertain to the activity of a working journalist who the shield law is designed to protect.
The outcome of this case poses an interesting scenario for bloggers and citizen journalists across the US who arguably should be more wary of what they say. Does this case mean that bloggers should now refer to the laws of defamation before commentating or should some bloggers enjoy the same rights as journalists?