Thursday, September 11

Digging Holes For Bloggers: Naked Boy


Sometimes, the best rule of thumb for bloggers is to think before taking action. Take J. Son, who produces Naked Boy News, for example. He almost jeopardized the entire jury selection process in the ongoing O.J. Simpson trial.

He jeopardized the trial by contacting two jurors and allegedly claiming to be with CNN. However, in this trial, like many trials, the court had previously ordered restraint by members of media to ensure an unbiased jury. In fact, media attempting to contact jurors would be in violation of a court order and charged with contempt of court and/or have their their press credentials confiscated.

Upon learning the contact came from a blogger, District Judge Jackie Glass said she could control media representatives, but couldn’t stop the public from trying to speak to prospective jurors. Other than hoping to tell him to knock it off, the judge has taken the position that there is nothing she can do.

”The folks on the street — I cannot control them,” District Judge Jackie Glass told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

I disagree. While I tend to be an advocate for the relatively few bloggers who hope to cross over into civil journalism, I also believe J. Son should be held in contempt of court just as any other publisher would.

If he is not held accountable, his actions will hurt bloggers over the long term by pressuring the courts and others to define what is a 'legitimate' journalist. Doing so would not only be bad for bloggers, but for everyone.

It’s simple really. Bloggers acting as or claiming to be journalists need to accept the responsibilities of journalists or else they risk a future where journalists will become licensed by the state and the First Amendment a mere privilege. With freedom comes responsibility.

Digg!

12 comments:

Amitai Givertz on 9/11/08, 5:03 PM said...

Rich, things that make you go "Hmmm..."

I disagree with you on your rationale for damning this person. J. Son should not be held in contempt of court because he is a "publisher." If you tweet on Twitter technically you are a publisher, right? Under similar circumstances would you suggest a micro-blogger be banged-up for contempt?

Social media has blurred the lines between news reporting and web-enabled commentary/self-promotion. The distinction between profit-motive and readership-driven media on the one hand and self-expression [for whatever reason] on the other is an important distinction to preserve.

I think the judge was correct in making a distinction between the the institutionalized press and the right of self-expression by a nitwit "publisher."

That said, I cannot fault your reasons for wanting J. Son convicted. I think he should have been punished based on the fact that he claimed to be with CNN. That should have been sufficient grounds to damn him as if he were with CNN, in contempt of court.

Impersonating a police officer in the commission of buying a Pepsi is a criminal act, but not the actual purchase and guzzling of the fizz. She should have thrown the book at him. It's a pity she didn't.

Rich on 9/11/08, 6:34 PM said...

Hey Amitai,

As often as agree, my friend, this may not be one of those times.

While social media does blur the lines between news reporting and web-enabled commentary/self-promotion, I do not think it blurs the lines between journalist and blogger as much as people would like to think.

Objective journalism is a relatively modern invention, starting in about the 1930s. And, the barrier to entry as a journalist or publisher is largely non-existent, online or off.

Specially, the only barrier in publishing is the mass production and distribution of content. The only barrier for a journalist is proving himself or herself capable enough to write for a publisher and left to the publisher’s discretion. Often times, publishers and journalists are one in the same.

This isn't just my personal view. As a matter of fact, one of the largest libel cases ever faced by a news publisher in the United States had nothing to do with what they published in the paper. It had to do with a document that they fired off from a fax machine. It was the "mass distribution" of libelous information that the court held them accountable for libel, not any other definition.

So yes, under the same circumstances, a micro blogger can be charged for contempt just as a microblogger can be sued for libel, etc. The length of the material or distribution method is not defined.

Specific to this case, J. Son contacted jurors and risked influencing them, thus denying the defendant his constitutional rights. That seems to be a relatively clear contempt charge to me, though I am not a attorney. What I am not sure about is why the judge even made a distinction. When I served on a jury, I was asked not to speak to anyone, regardless of their profession.

Incidentally tough, one of my staff members suggested the same as you did — that somehow impersonating a journalist is a crime. While clearly unethical, I find this hard to accept as a matter of law because, unlike a police officer, again, there is no barrier for entry nor license for the profession. Nor should there be. To me, the licensing of such endeavors (publisher or journalist) would seem to be the ultimate abasement of the First Amendment.

Personally, where I think people become confused, it seems to me, is they don't realize that regardless of what they write online, they are still in the business of mass producing content and thus, subject to the same protections and also the same laws as any journalist.

All my best,
Rich

Rich on 9/11/08, 6:36 PM said...

Side note: I almost forgot to mention that Naked Boy also publishes a subscription-based newsletter. (Not that that should make any difference, imo.)

Amitai Givertz on 9/12/08, 12:26 AM said...

Rich, thanks for the lengthy and compelling reply.

As I said at the outset: "Things that make you go "Hmmm..."

Gary Gerdemann said...

To phrase it more succinctly, there is no "social media." It is all media. We just have to come to grips with how we deal with the multiplicity of new content producers.

Rich on 9/12/08, 9:38 AM said...

@amitai

Absolutely right. I appreciate the discussion, especially with you, because it helps me think about the finer points.

@gary gerdemann

I could not agree more. Sometimes there is resistance to the more succinct, but very correct, assessment, especially among those in our own field.

Kim on 9/12/08, 10:30 AM said...

I think the problem is that some people want to have it both ways — the ability to be a publisher or journalist without the responsibility that comes with it.

Kevin Goodman on 9/12/08, 3:11 PM said...

Nice article Rich. I'm guessing the judge has complicated the future for victims of (blogging)-trouble makers. I agree with you. You should be treated as you act or profess.

As a side note the words blog, blogging, blogger, etc still crack me up. :)

Rich on 9/15/08, 11:07 AM said...

@kim People wanting both ways will force the issue that there needs to be two ways. There doesn't need to be.

@kevin Thanks Kevin. Always good to see you! I love that you mentioned the blogging, blog, and blogger because I still believe the field made a mistake when they made blogger a noun. Blogging is best served as a verb.

J.Son said...

Thanks for posting this blog about my site and what happened at the OJ trial. I would like to clarify a few things. I never stated I worked for CNN, I had only mentioned I was making a video that I was going to be sending into iReport (a CNN website) and the more important fact that the media has left out is this: I did not know they were potential jurors. I was simply doing a "man on the street" interview about what people in Vegas thought of the OJ trial. It was an accident and I would never have approaced the two ladies if they had their juror badges on, which they didn't.

I thank you all for checking out my site and exploring new media and blogging.

J.Son aka Naked Boy News!

Rich on 9/16/08, 11:02 AM said...

@j.son

You're welcome j.son. I think it's extremely relative story and your input, insight, and clarification is very much appreciated.

If you did not represent yourself as CNN employee and were gathering "man on the street" content outside the courtroom, then you did nothing wrong. You are right that they should have identified themselves as such.

It is almost a shame that the judge did not pursue a contempt change because then your story — which seems exceedingly plausible — would have told and the judge could have dismissed those changes publicly.

With your additional insight, I really think your story deserves a follow up post. I'll drop you an e-mail later this week.

All the best,
Rich

Amitai Givertz on 9/25/08, 3:46 AM said...

@Gary, to your point:

"To phrase it more succinctly, there is no "social media." It is all media. We just have to come to grips with how we deal with the multiplicity of new content producers."

Do you not think that there is a significant difference between the one-to-many communication of mass media and the conversational interaction of social media? And what about the profit motives of one over the social conciousness of another?

Do those things not merit significant distinction -- mass versus social media -- and therefore treatment?

Post a Comment

 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template