On TechDirt today there is an article claiming that bloggers should be protected as journalists. But I tend to be more in agreement with Ars Technica on the topic, which notes the judge referenced more criteria than whether the “blogger” calls herself a journalist.
As much as I want serious bloggers to be covered by shield laws, I do think that there should be some discretion into who is considered a journalist. If simply publishing a “blog” made you a journalist, then in a state with a journalist shield law you could be free to libel whoever you like and claim that you had facts to back up your statements that were provided by informants who you won’t reveal.
For the grey areas, maybe the answer is that you change the shield laws: Allow a judge to force ANY journalist to reveal, to an independent third party (or parties), with strict non-disclosure requirements, who the source is, possibly putting them in contact, and then have the party or parties testify as “expert witnesses” as to whether the source was credible. These expert witnesses should be under strict instruction to not, under any circumstances, reveal the source, regardless of whether it was credible. Cause them to lose their certification if they reveal the source, so they won’t be tempted if the judge demands it.
Then when you get into a situation like this, you can dig down and determine, at least to within reasonable human error, whether the alleged journalist is guilty of libel.
Just a thought.