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‘Blogger not a journalist’ says Oregon court

The $2.5 million defamation distinction

By Richard Chirgwin, 6 Dec 2011

An Oregon court has denied a blogger protection under that state’s “shield laws” because she isn’t employed by a media organization – a distinction which has cost her $2.5 million in a lost defamation suit.

Blogger Crystal Cox was accused of defaming Obsidian Finance Group in blog posts critical of the company’s founder Kevin Padrick. The accusation was based on writings Cox had based on information she said was leaked from a company insider.

That, however, is where she came unstuck, according to Seattle Weekly. While defending her posts as factual, Cox also declined to reveal her source, claiming protection under Oregon’s shield laws.

Her bind was that concealing her source weakened her defense that her posts were factual – and the court decided that Cox wasn’t eligible for the shield law defense:

“[A]lthough 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”, wrote US District Judge Marco A Hernandez in his judgment.

Cox had chosen to represent herself in this case, and according to Seattle Weekly intends to represent herself in the appeal. ®