A New Jersey Superior Court will decide in a defamation case whether
a Shellee Hale, a woman who posted comments online about the
pornography industry, should have the same protections as working
journalists. Hale, who writes four blogs and has contributed to The Wall Street Journal and Business Week, is seeking protection from disclosing her sources.
Tom Cafferty, counsel to the New Jersey Press Association, suggested in an interview with The Star-Ledger that her claim to privilege may be dubious and contends that judges realize they must be careful who gets the protection, because If the newsperson's shield is extended to everyone who posts items on the internet, "then everyone is a journalist and the privilege becomes meaningless," he said.
This is a recurring theme that I have written about previously, and --doubtless-- will be revisited again. For one view on this topic, see Randall Eliason, Leakers, Bloggers, and Fourth Estate Inmates: The Misguided Pursuit of a Reporter's Privilege, 24 Cardozo Arts & Ent. L.J. 385 (2006).
Another view is that bloggers --many of them working anonymously-- have taken on an increasing role as vanguards of accountability and accuracy in public discourse. See, e.g., Walaika Haskins, Bloggers Greatest Hits, Volume I & Volume II, TechNewsWorld (June 27 & July 11, 2007).
In a concurring opinion released earlier this month in Andrew v. Clark (4th Cir.), Judge J. Harvey Wilkinson, III, wrote: