As the popularity of the Internet has grown, numerous sites have popped up making it possible for “every man” to write and post articles in what are being called citizen journalists. Novices, wannabes, and professionals work side by side posting blogs, articles, and opinion pieces providing web surfers with news and gossip.
But the rules as to who exactly is a journalist may be changing if a ruling passed down by US District Judge Marco A. Hernandez holds up. According to Judge Hernandez there are seven criteria to determine a journalist. Many professional freelance journalists may find themselves a little short on the qualifications list for a journalist and available for First Amendment protections.
According to Judge Hernandez to qualify as a freelance journalist a person must have…
1. been educated in journalism
2. credentialed proof of affiliation with a recognized news entity
3. proof of adherence to journalistic standards that include editing, fact-checking, and disclosures in conflict of interst
4. keeping notes from conversations and interviews that were conducted
5. an understanding of confidentiality with defendants and sources
6. producing original content and not using the work of someone else
7. getting both sides of any story
Judge Hernandez states that without the evidence of these, then the person is not a member of the media.
In respect to his position, Judge Hernandez passes judgments on laws, but the First Amendment is not based on conditions like education in a specific field. Many journalists have learned their craft “on the job”. And as for His Honour’s list number five comes into play rarely, and number two is not essential, BUT numbers three, four, six, and seven ARE essential for any good journalist whether they be a staff reporter, a freelance writer, or a blogger.
As writers we have a responsibility to the readers (and ourselves) to present an accurate and truthful article that has been written and presented to the best of our ability.