Thursday, February 03, 2005

Are bloggers journalists? Do they deserve press protections?

An Apple lawsuit against the operators of fan websites stirs debate on whether bloggers can claim legal protections.
By Randy Dotinga Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

In the small universe of powerful bloggers, Joshua Micah Marshall and John Hinderaker are separated by 900 miles and an even wider political divide. Mr. Marshall leans to the left from Washington D.C., while Mr. Hinderaker, a Minneapolis attorney, sits firmly in the conservative camp. But the two men do share something in common: No one is really sure what to think of them.

Are they journalists with an obligation to check facts, run corrections, and disclose conflicts of interest? Or are they ordinary opinion-slingers, like barbers or bartenders, with no special responsibilities - or rights?

Even in a country where most citizens probably have no idea what a blog is, it's not just an academic debate. Bloggers, some observers say, are becoming major players in everything from national politics to consumer trends. As a result, "their conflicts, motives, and agendas matter enormously," says Zephyr Teachout, who served as Internet director for the Howard Dean campaign.

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