Blogs » Demographics & Dockets » Oregon blogger ordered to pay $2.5 million, judge says she is not a journalist

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A journalist can be a blogger, but a blogger is not necessarily a journalist.

This lawsuit out of Seattle helps prove the case.

Seattle Weekly--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.

"This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet," Cox reportedly said.

Cox runs several law-centric blogs, like industrywhistleblower.com, judicialhellhole.com, and obsidianfinancesucks.com.

She was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group in January for defamation, to the tune of $10 million, for writing several blog posts that were highly critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick.

Representing herself in court, Cox had argued that her writing was a mixture of facts, commentary and opinion like a million other blogs on the world wide web and moved to have the case dismissed, according to Seattle Weekly.

The judge ruled that one of Cox’s posts was defamatory because it was presented, essentially, as more factual in tone than her other posts, and therefore a reasonable person could conclude it was factual.

The judge ruled against Cox on that post and awarded $2.5 million to the investment firm.

Cox argued in court that the reason her post was more factual was because she had an inside source that was leaking her information.

Since Oregon is one of 40 U.S. states including Washington and Texas with media shield laws, Cox refused to divulge who her source was.

Without revealing her source, however, Cox couldn't prove the statements she made in her post were true and not defamatory, or attribute them to her source and transfer the liability.

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 [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]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 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, according to Seattle Weekly.

From the opinion by U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez:

. . . although defendant is a self-proclaimed "investigative blogger" and defines herself as "media," the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law

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For the full story, click here.

Both chambers of the Texas legislature unanimously passed a shield law in 2009 giving journalists qualified protection from disclosure of their sources and other confidential and non-confidential unpublished information collected as part of their newsgathering activities. It only applies to those who engage in journalistic activities "for a substantial portion" of their livelihoods or "for substantial financial gain" and exclude many bloggers and other citizen journalists.

For more information on the Texas shield law, click this http://www.newsroomlawblog.com/2009/05/articles/shield-laws/texas-governor-signs-shield-law/.

For more information on why the Texas shield law won’t protect bloggers, click this link.