Another lefty joins the fight

Pablo at Kiwipolitico, another left wing voice adds to the debate over whether or not I am a “journalist” and my site is a “news medium”.

The left and right seem united on this apart from a  few ill-informed toxic lefties.

The decision by a district court judge to deny a rightwing blogger the right to protect his sources because he is not a “news medium” under the definition of the Evidence Act has been greeted with glee by many on the Left but is utterly wrong. The judge clearly does not understand what blogging has become, and has failed to distinguish between freedom of the press and defamation.

There are many types of blogging, and some of it is clearly news-focused in nature. The Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Foreign Policy blog and many others of that type are news outlets, sometimes with editorial content. Blogs like The Onion are clearly satirical and should be treated as such. Blogs like David Farrar’s are personal, partisan and cut and paste editorial in nature. Blogs like this one are personal and opinion focused, not news breaking. There are tons of personal, music, cinema, food and other types of blog that are not news mediums but it should be obvious that there are also many news-breaking and news focused blogs that fall well within the definition of “news medium.”

Blogs that are news focused can have a heavy editorial or partisan content. When evaluating stories on such outlets one has to distinguish whether the author wrote in a news breaking capacity or as an editorial or partisan opinion. That really is not that hard.   

Yes people are all talking about ethics, and abuse and vitriol…without ever referring to THE LAW. The law is silent on all of those aspects.

Although I am no fan of sociopathic bullying bigots with partisan agendas and populist delusions, I think that the particular blog in question can be rightly considered to be a news medium with overt editorial content. Much like Fox News or RT and the blogs they operate.

The plaintiff in the defamation case against the blogger in question only need demonstrate what parts of the blogposts authored by the defendant are untrue or deliberately misleading. I have not read the entire opinion but it seems to me that being called a “cocksmoker” may be insulting depending on one’s perspective, but not necessarily defamatory. Ascertaining the source of the leaks to the blogger is immaterial: either what was posted was false and deliberately written to harm the plaintiff or it was not. Seeking to identify the source only serves punitive purposes and does not assist in establishing malicious intent (which is what the plaintiff is claiming is his objective under discovery).

Given who the blogger is, malicious intent is pretty much a given. The question is: was what he wrote a lie or deliberately misleading so as to harm the reputation of the plaintiff?

If I was a vexatious litigant intent on revenge against a “blogger” (and his sources) and allowed my paranoid fantasies to pay out I might consider suing for being called sociopathic and a bigot. But I’m not.

The district court decision should be appealed and overruled. That is important because it protects the sources of that part of the electronic media, including social media, that has a news-generating orientation. Doing so in no way prevents defamation cases from being brought because the proof of such cases is what was deliberately said or written, not the source for what was said or written.

If the source was consciously involved in deliberately disseminating false and misleading content via the blogger, then the latter has to decide whether to reveal the source or shoulder sole responsibility. That should be enough to make even citizen journalists and news bloggers cautious.

The point is that with news source protection privileges comes the journalistic responsibility to ascertain that the information provided from a source is not deliberately false or malicious. If that responsibility is shirked, then the news outlet, be it a blog, newspaper, radio or television program can be held accountable for disseminating falsehoods that are defamatory or libelous. If the blogger in this case used material that he knew to be false and damaging, then he should be liable. If he did not know the information was false and damaging and published without verifying, he is liable anyway. Whether or not he choses to reveal his source, he ultimately is responsible for what was written on his blog and therefore accountable for what was written. That is how journalism operates.

Mr Blomfield is not suing me for anything other than defamation…and as such what Pablo says above is 100% correct. And I did check and verify…which will all come out in the trial.

The bottom line is that the district court judge’s decision is very poorly thought out and wrong. As many have mentioned, it establishes a dangerous precedent with a chilling effect on freedoms of speech and press in electronic media.

The Left should not be so gleeful because the silencing of one opens the door to the silencing of many.

  • James Howlett

    Anyone for a guest ‘dud judge’ post?

  • BR

    Sauce for the goose and all that (or is that “source”).

    Bill.

  • OrphanIsland

    I mean seriously, so called Newspapers get it wrong a lot, what do they do ?, print a retraction and apology, sorry never mind and on they go.

    Cameron does this of his own accord without having a pandering watchdog to tell him what to do, so at the end of the day He’s a “Better than the NEWS!” information outlet.

  • BJ

    So it seems as though the judge’s stance is to treat Cameron not as the defendant, but as a witness [close to being in contempt of court], to be forced to support the plaintiff’s real motive, which under the guise of a defamation complaint against Cameron, is really only about outing who provided the information

  • cows4me

    So if the article had been written about the case and WO had it printed in a paper all would be sweet ? I suspect the same cries to reveal sources would be forthcoming. This is more a war of wills and the establishment is trying to rein in as what they see as rogue elements. A lot rides on this, the ramifications could be chilling.

    • philbest

      I bet the same people wouldn’t care less if it was Bomber Bradbury running “news” items on John Banks.

  • pukakidon

    Sounds like we need to retire some of these old fuddy duddy dudges who haven’t got a clue as to modern media and journalism.

  • Ronnie Chow

    FINALLY A JUDGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN
    Judge Blackie should be applauded.

    Whaleoil Jan 13 , 2010

    Blackie’s ruling is a real turn of the screw , and suggests something personal against Cameron Slater . He is wrong , not naive one would think , and certainly not impartial .

  • colinrippey

    All my adult life I had had great respect for the NZ judicial system. Then I stumbled across http://www.kiwisfirst.co.nz/index.asp and am not quite so sure.

    • philbest

      I say that the judiciary has been just as much a target of “the long march through the institutions” as has academia, journalism, historianship, social work, clergy, economics, and so on. I got a massive shock when a certain Justice Goddard ruled in favour of a trade union on the Wgtn dry dock issue way back in the 1980s; nearly bankrupting the purchasers of the dry dock (Nalder and Biddle) and resulting in its sale for scrap and the loss of Wellington jobs.

      And the long march has had more than two decades to stack the judiciary benches since then. The state of “justice” that property developers, for example, can now rely on when fighting little Napoleons in the local council, is an utter disgrace to the ancient British justice tradition.

  • Bretto

    So Kiwianything really has become lefty territory…

  • philbest

    So what if a blog runs opinion? So does the print media.

    If a blog runs news, it is still news, same as if the print media runs news. The presence of opinion in the same media does not render the news items, “not news” and therefore unable to be protected.

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