Who is a journalist?

In the wake of the recent scandal involving the government’s monitoring of the Associated Press and Fox News reporters the Justice Department released its new guidelines on investigations involving the news media. And while they certainly provide long-needed protections for journalists working for the established media, the outcome looks grim for independent journalists, bloggers, freelancers and non-salaried journalists.

The problem lies in the the DOJ’s dramatic narrow definition of who is a “member of the news media,” which under their interpretation does not include bloggers and freelancers. Throughout the guidelines they repeat over and over, “news media,” however do not ever use the words “journalist” or “reporter.”

The DOJ’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide reads as follows: “News Media” includes persons and organizations that gather, report or publish news, whether through traditional means (e.g., newspapers, radio, magazines, news service) or the on-line and wireless equivalent. A “member of the media” is a person who gathers, reports, or publishes news through the news media.

However, immediately after this they go on to exclude bloggers.

“The definition does not, however, include a person or entity who posts information or opinion on the Internet in blogs, chat rooms or social networking sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace, unless that person or entity falls within the definition of a member of the media or a news organization under the other provisions within this section (e.g., a national news reporter who posts on his/her personal blog).

The guidelines do follow-up by adding that if there is any question as to whether a person is a member of the media then they should be treated as such. However with such a clear but limited definition, it doesn’t leave much room for doubt.

This narrow definition is causing alarm among many in the journalism community leading opinion writers and columnists throughout the country to weigh in on this issue asking, is the intent of the DOJ to move the US government closer to an official, state-sanctioned press.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Reddit

Newest Posts

What do communities say about SPJ’s future? January 23, 2015, 8:54 pm
OU ready for your RSVP January 20, 2015, 5:39 pm
Tamara Keith on social political journalism January 15, 2015, 5:19 pm
Kansas State University’s SPJ chapter bolsters membership one year after relaunching January 13, 2015, 4:24 pm
Discussing Violence with our Journalism Students January 12, 2015, 10:24 pm
Alex Veeneman is SPJ’s volunteer of the month January 11, 2015, 9:13 pm
Press freedom orgs react to massacre of journalists in Paris January 7, 2015, 6:56 pm

Copyright © 2007-2015 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ