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FEC Rules Bloggers Are Journalists 363

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the be-nice-to-them-too dept.
Dotnaught writes "The Federal Election Commission today issued an advisory opinion that finds the Fired Up network of blogs qualifies for the 'press exemption' to federal campaign finance laws. The press exemption, as defined by Congress, is meant to assure 'the unfettered right of the newspapers, TV networks, and other media to cover and comment on political campaigns.' The full ruling is available at the FEC site. A noteworthy passage: '...an entity otherwise eligible for the press exception would not lose its eligibility merely because of a lack of objectivity...'"
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FEC Rules Bloggers Are Journalists

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  • Duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:59PM (#14059873)
    > "...an entity otherwise eligible for the press exception would not lose
    > its eligibility merely because of a lack of objectivity..."

    Well of course not. Otherwise they would have to close down CBS and Fox News right off the bat. And then come back and get CNN, ABC and NBC the next day. On the third day they would shutter the NY Times, the Washington Post and pull the plug on the EIB Network's sat feed.

    Of course by day four folks would show up in Washington with their 'Sporting Goods' and voice their 'opinion' about Campaign Finance Reform, reminding Congress that in the end the 1st Amendment, along with the rest are ultimately preserved by a willingness to exercise the 2nd Amendment. :)
    • Re:Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fallingcow (213461) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:08AM (#14059927) Homepage
      Years ago, there were tons of small independent papers publishing all over the country, most of which had a bias toward labor or business or any number of other things. The bias of each was pretty much out in the open.

      These mostly got bought up or run out of business, until now when only a relatively small number of much larger papers and media companies run everything.

      The bloggers are kind of like a return to that old model for print media in the U.S., I think, except way harder to buy out or run out of business, since most of them aren't even really in business. Biased indie papers are nothing new, and blogging is just the latest version of it. It was media then, it's media now.
      • Re:Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jobe_br (27348) <bdruth.gmail@com> on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:46AM (#14060125)
        Exactly.

        I think when some people think of "Media", they think of NYT, USA Today, ABC News, CNN, and their locally circulated newspaper, news stations, etc.

        There's a lot more to media than just this. There are a great number of publications that are extremely biased, small indie newsletters, mini magazines and who knows what other formats. There are publications geared toward the military, toward eco-friendly folks, and everything up down and in-between.

        And what's more amazing, is that most libraries carry these for their surrounding communities. Check it out sometime ... you'll find much more than just the WSJ and your local rag.

        Brice
      • The issue is mainly with blogs like DailyKos -- not only are they a journalistic blog site, they also run a Political Action Committee, and blatantly place stories designed to attract money and other support for certain candidates. So, are they a "blog", or are they a "PAC"?

        Almost everyone could tell you the difference between a "small independent paper" with a bias, and a paper published by the NRA or ACLU and designed to reflect the official positions of those organizations.

        My belief is that the Blog issu

    • CBS - left
      Fox - right
      CNN - left
      ABC -left
      NBC -left
      NY Times - left
      Washington Post - right
      EIB - right, but never claims to be "press", usually comments on "press". Certainly not a "primary source"... I'll give it 1/2 right.

      So, from this sample we have 2:1 left bias in the media.

      Is the ruling pro-right, pro-left, or just correct?

      • by Niten (201835) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:40AM (#14060096)

        The Washington Post has a bias toward the right? I'm not sure I can agree with that. I consider myself pretty allergic to any strong conservative bias; few things pain me more than sitting through the O'Reilly Factor. I've never considered the Washington Post to have any such bias. If they do, it's either too clever or too weak for me to pick up on.

        I would also argue that simply tallying up "left versus right" bias is useless with regards to determining the state of our mass media. By its very nature, political bias is anything but a black-and-white issue.

        • by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:54AM (#14060166) Homepage Journal
          I'm a conservative and I would agree with the original poster, that the Washington Post is biased to the right. It's not nearly as much as Fox News, but it's definitely there. The Wall Street Journal also slants to the right to some extent. I can't listen to Fox News any more than I can listen to CBS... the slant is just too much. Obvious bias in either direction is annoying.

          However, I can read the Washington Post and WSJ without any problem. Same for our local ABC affiliate.
          • could it be that so many outlets are far left (NYT, etc) that if a paper is fairly unbiased, it looks like it leans right?
            • by 7Prime (871679) on Friday November 18, 2005 @05:36AM (#14061127) Homepage Journal
              I'm a Liberal, and I read the Post daily. I think, however, that the news media probably, as a whole, tends to have a leaning (I wouldn't go as far to say bias), toward the left simply because (and this is not meant to gauge conservative few points) the idea of empassionately assessing multipul viewpoints tends to be a process championed more by progressive ways of thinking. But the heart of it, I think the Post, whether left or right, practices GOOD journalism. The job of a journalist is to be a voice of communication for the people as a whole, so theoretically, a very good news source could position itself in such a way, that everyone thinks it's on their side. I'm pretty surprised, and actually a bit glad, to see conservatives think that the Post reflects more their views, because I think it reflects mine. Of course, that's not the point of journalism, but it feels that, at some level, they've earned the trust of a lot of people on both sides, which is very important.

              My number one news source, however, is the News Hour. I don't watch network TV news: CNN is filth, CBS, NBC, and ABC are fluff (even if everyone says they're left leaning, I don't care, they lost THIS liberal), and FOX is made up of a bunch of neoconservative lobbiests—seriously, half of their stuff is made up of former conservative political advisors... Yes, I'm looking at you, Bill Kristol! The News Hour, and the other PBS news shows (Washington Week, Now, and Charlie Rose) feel like the only TV news that doesn't talk to me like I'm in 6th grade, and doesn't try to compress complicated events into 1 minute soundbytes. And when I watch news, I don't need to be entertained. I'm honestly excited and interested in learning about events at hand. Tell it to me straight. PBS is the only one that really does this anymore, the rest is just entertainment.

              • by Wellspring (111524) on Friday November 18, 2005 @11:24AM (#14062626)
                I almost completely agree-- and I'm a conservative. I'd add that journalists are primarily concerned with communication and presentation. It takes artistry to produce a coherent report. They're not operational people by nature. Artists tend to be liberal.

                In an ideal, black body radiation sort of way, it's impossible to find a reporter who is completely without bias. And you wouldn't want to read him if you found him. Ultimately, journalism is partly about reporting and partly about synthesizing and interpreting events. And events have many interpretations.

                Good journalists are fair-minded. They're more concerned with what is true than who is right. They aren't in there to change your mind, just to let you in on what's happening in the world. They'll have a bias, but they know it, acknowledge it, and work extra hard to ensure that their coverage isn't tainted by it.

                Bad journalists follow the creed of Cargo Cult Science. That is: "I already know what's true, now let me go prove it." They may be right sometimes, but their process is tainted and you won't know when they're right. And, really, they don't either. They're in journalism because they want to change the world, and protect people from evil bad guys who tell lies. There are bad conservative journalists, and bad liberal ones, but until the rise of Fox, most journalists were liberal, so most bad ones were too.

                It's no accident that journalism scandals came up right as blogs were getting big. A rise of a massive citizen journalism, biased individually but usually not collectively, suddenly put the news empires on the spot. Liberals insist that blogs are primarily a liberal movement, and conservatives claim that it's mostly conservative. The truth is that you read the blogs you agree with, so you feel like your side is huge. We don't really know where the overall centroid is.

                Incidentally, I think that programmers are both artists and engineers-- which I think is why programmers still don't fall easily into a political category, even though we are all definitely on the same wave lengths... even when we disagree.
          • If you think the Washington Post is biased to the right, then you need to try reading the Washington Times. The Washington Times makes Fox News look like CNN.
      • You forgot NPR....

        NPR - left (sometimes far left)
      • If the the above were actually true, Al Gore would be approaching the mid-point of his 2nd term.

      • To be fair, one has to make a distinction between a channel's news programs and it's commentary-style shows. I find the news report shows on NBC, FOX, and CNN to be mostly fair as far as covering the major political sides. One can easily test that by looking at each story and measuring the range of political opinions that get reported with it. It's their commentary-style shows that are heavily biased, but that's by design since those shows center around the opinions of their host(s) which naturally will lea
      • Except that left and right are very relative. I'm sure most people in Texas would say the Washington Post has a "left" bias and many Europeans and Canadians would think most of the media on your list have a "right" bias. Same way with parties, the US democrats would be qualified as "right wing" in many other countries. Yet Chirac (French "right wing") would probably be qualified as "left wing" in the US.
      • HAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That's your definition of left wing?

        I got some advice for you:
        Don't trust the little endians. They're all communists!

        -Laxitive
      • CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC and the NY Times are not "left wing" at all. They don't even lean towards the true left in any way. Sure, they're not as far to the right as FOX is, but that doesn't mean they can be considered "left".

      • Wow, what a response. I am a geek, not a pol.

        I don't watch/read/listen to any of the named "news" sources. I kind of listen to my local new-radio station (or push the button to indy radio) and glance at the local newspaper, but don't really give a shit about any of political stuff.

        I was just curious what kind of response I would get. heh. [BTW - "flamebait" was the correct response]

        I was modded +5 insightful for a bit, but am dropping fast. That was kind of fun, I might do it more often, if I don't ha

    • "Of course by day four folks would show up in Washington with their 'Sporting Goods' and voice their 'opinion' about Campaign Finance Reform, reminding Congress that in the end the 1st Amendment, along with the rest are ultimately preserved by a willingness to exercise the 2nd Amendment. :)"

      It always amazes me how many people really believe that the American people could, with their piddly collection of what amounts to a pile of pea-shooters in comparison to the arms of the Federal Government, actually over
      • When a good portion of the U.S population decides to revolt, if it really came to that, do you think the entire U.S. military would take up arms against them? Do you know anyone in the military? Any friends or relatives? Would *they* shoot you? Would they drive a tank down Main Street USA?

        The U.S has numerous National Guard amories scattered across Anytown USA. The people in charge of these armories answer to the Governors and to the President in times of war. But they also live, work and raise families in
    • ultimately preserved by a willingness to exercise the 2nd Amendment.

      I always wondered about this one. I ask what's it good for, and get something like, "So we can rebel against our governement if it goes bad." Uh, yeah, I see. But not having a second amendment didn't stop the US Revolution against the British in the first place, did it? And the trouble over in France showed guns all over the place, but they're forbidden to have guns, too, aren't they? And you'd not be rebelling against a government unless

    • No. They would not rise up. They would sit on their asses and do nothing.

      • They would sit on their asses and do nothing.

        You got your tenses wrong. Some of the worst excesses in government in the past half century are happening now and they are sitting on their arses doing nothing.
  • by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:00AM (#14059877)
    Because some people think that there ought to be limits to Free Speech, it is required that government define exactly what types of Free Speech are really free and which ones ought not be so free.

    McCain/Feingold campaign finance laws, which limit the Freedom of Speech of anyone with a political opinion, forces us to define what types of speech should remain legal.

    It's sad and disappointing.

    • "McCain/Feingold campaign finance laws, which limit the Freedom of Speech of anyone with a political opinion, forces us to define what types of speech should remain legal."

      This has got to be the most rediculous statement I have ever read here. Since when does campaign finance reform==freedom of speech? Give me a fucking break. What it does do (to some extent) is limit the quid pro quo (aka legalized bribery) that is rampant in DC. Just because Mr.Big Business wants to be able to finance their Pocket Politic
      • as i understand it, the current campaign finace reform limits everyone except the press from making a political statement 30 days prior to an election. that means next time a news station runs a completely false story on a candidate a week prior to election day, the common man (or a citizens group, etc) has no way to counter the story. why do you think it was delayed in taking effect until the next cycle?

        by always trying to screw the 'big evil guy', it invariably trickles down to the little guy who has con

      • by jasonditz (597385) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:48AM (#14060136) Homepage
        Since when does campaign finance reform==freedom of speech?

        I think it was about the time when they started considering public speech supporting a candidate a form of "campaign contribution". Why do you think the bloggers needed an exemption in the first place?
    • by MBCook (132727)
      I could name hundreds of good reasons why free speech should be limited. There are so many ways I think we could make the world a better place by limiting the speech of a few jerks who abuse the privilege (simple example: "My sending SPAM is free speech!").

      But, for ever 100 why we should get rid of free speech, there is one or two why we shouldn't. And those are always the large one. For every "I did insane thing x to piss people off but they can't get mad because I call it art" one comes across, there is

    • Since when does money = speech? Money facilitates and assists speech, but I dont think it is speech itself.
    • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:01AM (#14060198) Homepage
      I don't think the Founding Fathers ever intended the "one dollar, one vote" system that occurs when you don't have regulation of campaign finance.

      Do you?
      • I don't think the Founding Fathers' opinion is relevant beyond the point that they believed that Speech ought to be Free.

        In addition, money does not vote, nor does the abundance of money increase the number of votes allotted to any one citizen. The poor college student has the same one vote that the rich oil tycoon has.

        What is it you want to prevent? Voter fraud? That has nothing to do with campaign financing.

        If you are saying that monetary contributors to campaigns ought to be restricted because of the
      • I am absolutly certain that the founding fathers would not have eliminated freedom of speech for any reason.

        Eliminating the effect of money in elections is a fantasy. These laws don't in any way, shape, form, or measure stop money from effecting elections. What they do is ensure only the richest and most politically powerful can get the FEC exemption so that only the rich and powerful are allowed political speech. They have the absolute opposite effect that they are intended to have. But even assuming that
  • Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slashNO@SPAMomnifarious.org> on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:03AM (#14059897) Homepage Journal

    A decision by the FCC that I can actually agree with and think is good for everybody. Will wonders never cease?!

  • Amendment I (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Woldry (928749) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:08AM (#14059926) Journal
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

    Freedom of speech applies to political speech. Campaign finance laws are blatantly unconstitutional. This ruling is offensive because it implies that only established and recognized "press" entities qualify -- and the government, whose interest is markedly not neutral, gets to decide who is and isn't "press".
    • Re:Amendment I (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bluprint (557000) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:39AM (#14060091) Homepage
      Exactly. I think so many people have some sort of weird, "left/right", "liberal/conservative" view now, nothing matters except what hurts the other side.

      This is about freedom. Fuck politics. We can say what we want. If that one fact is no longer true, then this is no longer the same America I thought I was growing up in.
    • Re:Amendment I (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EMeta (860558)
      This line of thinking makes sense, but it's simply implausible. The fact of the matter is that one group being able to flood the airwaves with a certain position will effectively take away the free speech anyone else decides to do. CFR is evil in its ways, but easily a necessary one. And yes there are many ways to circumvent its protections--ads trashing one side while not specifically supporting the other slip through the laws. But I am certainly glad that no one is allowed to buy up all the airwaves fo
      • Re:Amendment I (Score:3, Informative)

        by Woldry (928749)
        The airwaves are (artificially, by government fiat) limited resource, and as such, restrictions on how much someone can monopolize them to stump for a particular candidate might be justifiable. But the fact that someone has more time/energy/money/passion/wind to promote a particular candidate, party, position, point of view, or brand of toothpaste is completely irrelevant to what the Constitution says. If you think that the wording of "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of
    • Re:Amendment I (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rivenmyst137 (467812)
      >Freedom of speech applies to political speech. Campaign finance laws are blatantly unconstitutional. This ruling is offensive because it implies that only established and recognized "press" entities qualify -- and the government, whose interest is markedly not neutral, gets to decide who is and isn't "press".

      This argument is profoundly naive. Follow the bouncing ball, boys and girls:

      The point of the first amendment was to allow dissent. Monarchs and other ruling parties had a bad habit of throwing peo
      • And after all that crap you typed, free people become criminals.

        Congratulations. You win.
      • Re:Amendment I (Score:3, Insightful)

        by istartedi (132515)

        Not all speech is created equal. See, in order for people to hear what you're saying, you have to put it in some kind of medium. And media are private, for-profit entities, which means more money=more message

        If this were true, then I might be able to tell you what was on CBS last night. I can't. I chose not to watch it because I liked what was on another channel better. If CBS had absolute freedom of speech, they might have aired porn last night; but so would have all the other networks. It's not t

    • Re:Amendment I (Score:2, Interesting)

      This ruling is offensive because it implies that only established and recognized "press" entities qualify -- and the government, whose interest is markedly not neutral, gets to decide who is and isn't "press".

      Yes, yes and yes. This is the exact reason why a shield law is detrimental to journalism and why one cannot be effected: forcing the government to define "press" means the definitnon could be manipulated so that only pro-party outlets are recognized and other publications can have their staff thrown

  • by lightyear4 (852813) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:12AM (#14059947) Homepage
    This development is indeed encouraging; however, the need to define free speech explicitly through enumeration is troublesome. As it was intended, free speech should be free speech as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others. That may seem too nebulous a definition, but it's really quite cut and dry: say what you will so long as it does not deleteriously impact others. Why has such a simple and powerful idea become so diluted?
    • Exactly. Free speech is supposed to be everything except some enumerated things (yelling "Fire" being the classic example).

      It's odd that so many things are "free speech" and people will rush to defend them as though the country would fall apart without them (many pieces of "art") yet are silent on real free speech (some journalistic blogs). Whether that is due to ignorance ("All blogs are just people writing about what their cat did today and other pointless stuff"), an agenda ("I support the views of the

    • The problem is, when people make large contributions to a campaign, to the point where the candidate basically owes his or her position of power to a few special interests, that very much infringes upon my rights.

      In order to live in a society where the freedom of speech means anything, we have to protect the integrity of the political process. When our politicians owe more to their financers than they do to the Constitution, the voting public, or society as a whole, the ensuing corruption becomes impossibl
  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:18AM (#14059974) Journal
    I think the people trying to "censor" blogs do have a legitimate point: you can bet that everyone who is campaigning for something will set up blogs, pretending to be independant, that sing their praises. That's harder to do with "real" publications because they cost money to set up and run, and their ownership is public record.

    I guess this is just part of the price of free speech. I do wonder if there's a good interface for "moderating" blogs, so that, for example, if one is sponsored by Candidate X in a sneaky way, and someone finds out, it can appear beside the name of the blog.

    I'd also like to point out a fundamental difference between bloggers and journalists. I have worked at a newspaper, and spent all day calling people, attending government meetings, doing research and asking more questions before I wrote something. Bloggers tend to link to the work of real reporters, then offer comments, or worse, just repeat rumors as fact. At best, they are information scavengers, feeding on the facts hunted down by others.

    Because a newspaper has advertisers and subscribers, it has to protect its reputation as being truthful. A blogger has nothing at stake. A newspaper also expects to get sued and tries to have a "truth defense" ready - to cover their butts by being accurate. They might not always succeed, but they have reason to try. I don't know whether any bloggers have been sued for libel yet, but I bet some will be. If you're going to "publish" something, you really do need to check your facts, and that usually takes more time than a hobbyist has.
    • I think newspapers need to do a little more naval gazing before casting stones at the bloggers.

      Considering what various blog sites have found out about the "facts" that the news papers have dug up and reported, I wouldn't be so proud about everything that newspapers have done.

      And the reason I say that is that the journalists that are supposedly reporting the facts of stories interject their own opinions into news events. That'd be fine if it were an opinion piece; but frequently you'll see there's a bias (
    • At best, they are information scavengers, feeding on the facts hunted down by others.

      I'm no blog cheerleader but I think you are being too harsh. At best, they do create something of real value... hunting down information and publishing it. What you specified is the typical behavior, not the best the field has to offer. Which I admit is a microscopic portion, but such details are important.
    • "I don't know whether any bloggers have been sued for libel yet, but I bet some will be. If you're going to "publish" something, you really do need to check your facts, and that usually takes more time than a hobbyist has."

      http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/10/07/06 26254&tid=153&tid=123&tid=17 [slashdot.org]

      Bloggers have been sued and won...At least partly.

      B.
    • by redelm (54142) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:13AM (#14060261) Homepage
      Please! The amount of truthfulness and accuracy in commercial newspapers is highly variable. Sometimes it's good, othertimes it _way_ off base. Fact checkers cannot cover what is omitted, and much bias is in the wilful omissions.

      I'd much rather deal with 'blog who make no pretense. I'll do my own fact checking rather than rely on unseen gnomes to do it to my satisfaction.

    • Wouldn't it be nice if politicians had to keep *real* daily logs. Like records of whom they met with, were bought a $200 luncheon from, and received $10,000 in 'contributions?'

      Too bad the only ones they want to hold accountable are others...
    • Bloggers tend to link to the work of real reporters, then offer comments, or worse, just repeat rumors as fact. At best, they are information scavengers, feeding on the facts hunted down by others.
      Even worse is when you get the guys that just link to articles with a short summary and let people open up in the comments on that particular blog post.

      You know, kinda like Slashdot. :)
    • Because a newspaper has advertisers and subscribers, it has to protect its reputation as being truthful. A blogger has nothing at stake. A newspaper also expects to get sued and tries to have a "truth defense" ready - to cover their butts by being accurate. They might not always succeed, but they have reason to try.

      This seems to be saying that any two newspapers expending the resources necessary to adequately research a given issue or event will produce the same story; that is, except for the Op/Ed pages,

    • Bloggers tend to link to the work of real reporters, then offer comments, or worse, just repeat rumors as fact. At best, they are information scavengers, feeding on the facts hunted down by others.

      Is that different than when real journalists just re-hash everything from a press conference? Or when journalists pick and choose which expert testimony they want to go forward with if they have dissenting testimony?

      Don't put journalists on a pedestal. The days where journalists did hard digging to get out th
    • Comment A: "I have worked at a newspaper, and spent all day calling people, attending government meetings, doing research and asking more questions before I wrote something."

      Comment B: "Bloggers [...] At best, they are information scavengers, feeding on the facts hunted down by others."

      Er, um, weren't you just feeding on the facts told to you by the people you called, the meetings you attended, and the answers to questions you asked? You're an info scavenger!

      Also, you're confusing "editorial commentary" wit
  • I admit, I'm not always up on the latest geek news, but: ...is meant to assure 'the unfettered right of the newspapers, TV networks, and other media to cover and comment on political campaigns.' Um...were we not already Free to comment? And if not, what do we need to do to change that?
  • Good precedent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Progman3K (515744) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:29AM (#14060036)
    In a few years, there may be no more print newspapers.

    Freedom of the press must survive though, so this seems a fair response to our evolving times.
  • ... a lack of objectivity ...

    Why is this news? The entire media is that way. Except Slashdot, of course.
  • Nice of the FEC to decide to give certain people that meet strict qualification the privledge of freedom of speech on political issues... However, I still think we need some garantee, maybe a constitutional amendment or something like that, that garantees freedom of speech for everyone.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Federal Election Commission today issued an advisory opinion that finds the Fired Up network of blogs qualifies for the 'press exemption' to federal campaign finance laws. The press exemption, as defined by Congress, is meant to assure 'the unfettered right of the newspapers, TV networks, and other media to cover and comment on political campaigns.'


    In Soviet Russia, government decides who is a journalist and who is not.

    Oh wait...
  • with power comes great responsibility..
    this may be a good thing in long run.......
  • by Faux_Pseudo (141152) <Faux.Pseudo@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:03AM (#14060213) Homepage
    I guess it is time for every person with a blog to update their resume. Journalist has a nice ring to it.
  • by ShatteredDream (636520) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:04AM (#14060221) Homepage
    Does anyone actually think that anyone but the party faithful would actually buy into a seemingly "independent blogger's" pro-candidate writings? Take for existance, Right Wing News. The site is blatantly pro-Republican, to the point that its owner won't even vote for a libertarian or constitution party candidate if the Republican is even farther to the left than the Democrat. Many "right wing bloggers" for example, are just Republican Party hacks.

    I'd imagine that there are two broad sides in all of this: those who are independent regardless of ideology and those who shill for the bifactional ruling party know as the Republican and Democratic parties. Who cares if the RNC or DNC pays someone to sing the praises of their candidate? Unless they're outright lying, they'll just garner the attention of the party faithful. The bloggers in the first category and most of their friends and readers won't buy into it because they're on the opposite side of the philosophical fence.

    But what is amusing here is that blogging is just a way of maintaining a website. Most bloggers are not journalists because of the simple fact that their work cannot be considered journalistic. Perhaps Michelle Malkin's blog should count, but it'd be a cold day in hell that I'd consider the average blogger to be a journalist. If you're not a professional jouralist, then you aren't one IMO. The concept of a "citizen journalist" is redundant. The point of using "citizen" as a modifier is to show that you are a civilian doing a government job. Hence "citizen soldier" for example. That's a miltiaman, a man who fights as part of a civilian army organized in a military-like hierarchy. He's a soldier, but not a government soldier thus he's a "citizen soldier." Since America has only a lame-brained attempt at state media (*cough*CPB*cough*) there is no way you can qualify as a "citizen journalist." Either journalism is your career or it is something you amateurishly ape.
  • FEC madness.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ancil (622971) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:06AM (#14060231)
    Thus laying bare the ridiculous nature of campaign finance laws in the first place. Consider:

    > If a reporter or editor wants to endorse Bill Gates for president, they can do it. They can write a 2,000 word puff piece about how great he is and publish it in the New York Times.

    > Unless of course, they quit their job and want to pay the New York Times to run the exact same article, word for word. This would now be a violation of campaign finance laws, because only reporters and editors are allowed to have opinions. If a private citizen has an opinion, he's trying to destroy the democratic process.

    > Unless the non-reporter's name happens to be Bill Gates, in which case it becomes legal again. The Supreme Court has said that you can always spend money campaigning for yourself.

    End result: Rich people can finance their own campaigns without any limits (see Ross Perot), but middle-class types are breaking the law if they buy ads endorsing a candidate they would like to see elected. That, and the First Amendment is flushed down the toilet.

    • Oh this is crap.

      Surely people should NOT be able to pay to have ads for some politician in the paper. Do you really want to mafia or Haliburton or whomever legally able to pay for ads to be placed in newspapers? At least if they donate directly to the candidate, there is a record (ideally) of every single donation in one place, and it can be made public record. If you let everyone pay to put ads in the papers or on TV, no one would have any idea who's paying what for whom. It would be way too open to abuse;
      • Re:FEC madness.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Woldry (928749)
        As any GPL fan will tell you, it isn't about "freedom to", it is about "freedom from".

        "Freedom of speech", to my ears, sounds a lot more like "freedom TO speak" than "freedom FROM speaking", or even than "freedom FROM other people's speaking."

        Likewise, "freedom of the press" would seem to be a lot closer in my mind to "freedom TO run a press" then "freedom FROM those running the press".

        And given the (admittedly imperfect) freedom of opportunity in the U.S. (that's a freedom TO opportunity, not a fr
  • News Fits (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:46AM (#14060423) Homepage Journal
    No no no - we can't have the press meddling in important matters like presidential elections. The New York Times protected our democracy by stonewalling the Fitzgerald investigation into the White House leaking a CIA/WMD expert's identity. Which otherwise would have splashed lurid details of a White House indictment all over the pages. That might have influenced the election. My thanks to these guardians of liberty, standing up for our freedom from press tyranny. If only they could keep the irresponsible bloggers out of the sensitive business of political reporting, where only the most highly qualified corporations can be trusted to protect us from what we cannot stand to know.
  • Great (Score:2, Funny)

    by megrims (839585)
    This is great. Now where's my press card?
  • by tmach (886393) on Friday November 18, 2005 @02:46AM (#14060625)
    If the government is going to start considering bloggers "journalists", this could end up being a huge roadblock to free speech.

    In fact, free speech doesn't really apply to journalists. I'm speaking as someone who has worked in journalism for the past ten years. Let's say I hate Microsoft. As a journalist, if I wrote something like "Microsoft is crap and I'm not just saying that because Bill Gates likes to sleep with young boys and small furry animals" I would be in a load of trouble. Sure, it's an obvious joke, but Gates would have me dragged into court in less time than it took Windows98 to flash a BSOD. Now I could argue satire, but unless I got lucky and had a jury full of Mac addicts, I would probably lose.

    The example doesn't even need to be that extreme. News organizations have been sued for defamatory stories about corporations, even though everything in their story was accurate. Once upon a time, journalists could rely on the truth as their defense. This is not always the case anymore. You can be sued for defamation even if the facts are on your side, and you will lose if the jury sides against you.

    The only so-called journalists who come close to getting away with things like that are tabloids, and they're being sued left and right. They're losing, too.

    Add to that the fact that most bloggers aren't affiliated with big corporations or other entities with loads of cash. Most of them are regular people, who couldn't afford to defend themselves in court even if they were 100% accurate with everything they wrote.

    Of course, I haven't talked about political speech, which IS what this ruling is all about. However, if the government really starts treating blogs like other journalistic media, it will have to apply the same standards to all of them. At the very least, blogs could eventually be vulnerable to the same legal actions as traditional media.

    I guess what worries me the most is this: As a journalist, I am not at all free to say whatever it is I want to say--nor should I be. Some stories are so heavily "lawyered" to avoid lawsuits, they read like a Microsoft EULA. Most of us couldn't afford to have a legal team on retainer to protect ourselves. Even if we could, what kind of "freedom" is that?

    • by hagbard5235 (152810) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:41AM (#14060965)
      Effectively, libel is dead. If you, as a journalist, publish mean, false things about Bill Gates, a public figure, then you can only be found guilty of libel if it can be proved that you acted with 'actual malice'. See Sullivan v New York Times (1964). Historically, malice has been almost impossible to prove, and people have lost libel cases against parties who were proven to have published falsehoods against them, who were proven to have KNOWN those falshoods were false prior to publication, but by whom malice could not be proven. You are worrying for nothing, you can basically make any statements you would like about a public figure with impunity.
    • If the government is going to start considering bloggers "journalists", this could end up being a huge roadblock to free speech.

      You speak of the "government" as if it is one monolithic entity that actually knows what all of it's hands are doing. The FEC decided that bloggers were journalist - not any other government agency. For FEC purposes they are journalist. This does not mean that, for example, the Supreme Court thinks of bloggers as journalist or that any other part of the government thinks of blog
  • Dig Deeper (Score:4, Insightful)

    by realgreendragon (858528) on Friday November 18, 2005 @02:56AM (#14060648)
    This is about money.

    This is about money that the parties and candidates spend paying "bloggers" to write about how good they are.

    The issue here is not free speach. It has been spun. The issue here is if someone is being paid to write something in a blog, then they should have to make that clear on the blog. There is a difference between an opinion piece and propaganda.

    If 500 people all write in support of an issue and it turns out that they have been paid to all support that issue, it isn't really a grass roots support movement, is it?

    This boils back down to the same issue as the gov. paying "journalists" to create fake news reports about certain issues.

    I have no problem with parties and candidates paying people to write good things about them, I just want to know if what I am reading is someone's opinion or a campaign ad.
  • Jurnalist! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:19AM (#14060897) Homepage Journal
    Yestrday I could not spell jurnalist, now I are one!
  • ruling? (Score:3, Informative)

    by kwoff (516741) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:34AM (#14060939)
    Why are you calling a "Draft Advisory Opinion" by a commission a "ruling"?
  • Since when did the government get to decide what is and isn't free speech? It all is. Even if it deals with elections. It's nice that the FEC says that bloggers have free speech, but the fact of the matter is "so does everyone else". Fuck you FEC, for even thinking that you can regulate this sort of thing.

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