On Friday, April 3rd, Josh Wolf, a video blogger, was released from a prison in California where he was held for a record breaking 7.5 months for refusing to give a federal court his video tape of the protests in San Francisco at the WTO’s G8 conference. This scandal is particularly aligned with word of mouth because Wolf is requesting to be protected by privacy laws granted to journalists. This is causing some controversy among journalists, many of whom do not consider him a journalist simply because he is a blogger. So the question is: what signifies a journalist as opposed to a blogger? Is it because they are paid? Is it because they are employed by a well-known or credited publishing venue? On his own personal blog, Wolf states:
Many have suggested I am not a journalist because I have personal views about my subject matter; others have argued that I don’t qualify for journalistic protections because I am not employed as a journalist by a corporation. How would a “journalist with a press pass” have responded to such a demand by the federal government? (http://joshwolf.net/blog/).
I think this is an important issue because it deals with transparency, the identity of bloggers, and whether or not the court system in America needs to change its understanding of what journalism is now that we have channels like blogs or video diaries. An interesting point is that the court system did not outright deny Wolf his rights as a journalist, they merely tried to work around it by placing the trial in a federal court, where this protection law does not hold. In his blog, Wolf demands a call to action for Congress to pass a federal shield law comparable to the law in California which protects these journalists. I think it will be interesting to see if Wolf and the contributors to his blog will push for this agenda and if they will succeed. I can’t think of another instance where consumer generated media was the driver behind an amendment to a law or a creation of one. Maybe someone can comment if they do know of an example where this took place.
Another important part of this story is the opinion of one journalist who, along with other journalists, is critical of Wolf. They collectively question whether there needs to be a distinction between a political activist who also runs a personal blog and a professional journalist. Kevin Sites, a journalist from Yahoo! news, asked Wolf to pick which he would consider himself, an activist or a journalist. Wolf’s response was, "My role is to uncover the truth to deliver to the public. That is my number one accountability" (http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs28294). So, do we take his word for it? Or does this mark the end of the role of a journalist and the beginning of citizen marketer journalists?
Wolf, Josh. “On a Journalist’s Duty to the Public.” Online Posting. 9 April 2007. The Revolution Will Be Televised blog. http://joshwolf.net/blog/.
Sites, Kevin. “Journalist or Activist.” Yahoo News 3 April 2007. http://hotzone.yahoo.com/b/hotzone/blogs28294
Tags: WOM word of mouth Word-of-Mouth Marketing buzz marketing viral marketing marketing communication Northeastern University