Saturday, April 05, 2008

Are bloggers journalists?

And should they be protected in the same way as conventional journalists are?

Siedel's post was almost exclusively focused on the legal maneuverings, although it did include the accurate statement that the fracas was the result of "the overwhelmingly discredited scientific hypothesis that autism is a consequence of mercury poisoning." Only the final paragraph veered towards editorializing, calling the suit, "a hydra-headed quest for revenge, for compensation, and for judicial validation of autism causation theories roundly rejected by the greater scientific community." That, apparently, was enough to draw the attention of the attorneys involved.

In late March, Siedel received a subpoena that seeks her appearance as part of the lawsuit. Should the subpoena stand, Siedel would also have to produce documents regarding the financial operations of Neurodiversity and any contacts with the government or pharmaceutical industry, other members of the autism blogging community, or scientific journals.
But the motion also gives a great picture of what's at stake, including Siedel's freedom of religious association and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. It also makes a strong claim that bloggers are journalists. "The materials and information demanded in the subpoena are subject to the journalist's privilege," writes Siedel. "Although I am unaffiliated with a traditional news organization, and am not compensated for my work except to the extent described above, I am a de facto citizen-journalist regularly engaged in the public dissemination of news and information, and the promotion of discourse and advocacy regarding issues of national importance."

The subpoena has problems on so many grounds, that Siedel's motion may be upheld without a ruling on constitutional grounds or the status of bloggers. If the judge chooses to rule broadly, however the decision could help clarify what role the blogging community has in the public discourse.

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