[Politech] Bloggers undercut reporters' 1A privilege defense [fs]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Thu Jan 06 2005 - 21:07:37 PST

[I meant to send this out last month. It's provocative and raises some 
of the hoary who's-a-journalist-and-can-get-creds issues that are 
becoming important again. --Declan]


Bloggers Blur the Definition of Reportersí Privilege

By JOSH GERSTEIN Staff Reporter of the Sun

     As two prominent Washington journalists struggle to avoid jail time 
over their refusal to disclose confidential sources, one of the biggest 
obstacles the reporters face is Americaís fastgrowing army of citizen 
Web loggers, or bloggers.

     Itís not that the town criers of the online world are campaigning 
to send Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time 
Magazine to prison. Rather, itís the bloggersí very existence that 
undercuts the journalistsí legal defense.

     On Wednesday, lawyers for Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper are scheduled 
to appear before a federal appeals court in the capital to argue that 
reporters should have a legal privilege not to testify about their 
sources under most circumstances. A federal prosecutor investigating 
whether the White House leaked the name of a CIA operative,Valerie 
Plame, has asked the pair to appear before a grand jury to answer 
questions.They have refused.

     The crux of the reportersí contention is that the public would be 
less well informed if journalists could not promise their sources 
confidentiality. However, the proliferation of blogs and bloggers could 
represent the Achillesí heel in this approach. If Ms. Miller and Mr. 
Cooper are entitled to claim special treatment in the courts, so too 
could hundreds of thousands of Americans who use the Internet to post 
comments about their views on current events.

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