Though “journalism” is an amorphous term capable of various meanings, its traditional media are familiar. Yet, if the progression in media from print to radio to broadcast and cable teaches a lesson, it is that dissemination technology is rarely stagnant. As the seemingly endless procession of new media made possible by digital communication continues, the manner by which works of journalism are disseminated is also changing.
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Though “journalism” is an amorphous term capable of various meanings, its traditional media are familiar. Yet, if the progression in media from print to radio to broadcast and cable teaches a lesson, it is that dissemination technology is rarely stagnant. As the seemingly endless procession of new media made possible by digital communication continues, the manner by which works of journalism are disseminated is also changing. Whether this evolution in media creates a better informed and more capable citizenry is a fair subject for debate. What is less debatable is that the blossoming of digital media is testing legal frameworks, particularly in the realm of journalistic privileges. Shield laws, also known as reporters’ privileges, have existed in the United States for more than a century as a way to foster the free flow of information. While questions have long persisted about how to properly administer shield law protection, the rapid pace of media evolution is exposing the shortcomings in many existing statutory constructions and interpretations. This Recent Development casts a critical look at a 2011 Oregon shield law decision Obsidian Financial Group, LLC v. Cox. Presenting Obsidian as an example of problematic statutory drafting and interpretation, this Recent Development seeks to introduce a more sustainable, medium-neutral model for shield law protection.
John J. Dougherty, Recent Development, Obsidian Financial Group, LLC v. Cox and Reformulating Shield Laws to Protects Digital Journalism in an Evolving Media World, 13 N.C. J.L. & Tech. On. 287 (2012), http://cite.ncjolt.org/13NCJOLTOnlineEd287.
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The Evolution of Crystal Cox: Anatomy of a Scammer
Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox is a 2011 case from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon concerning online defamation. Plaintiffs Obsidian Finance Group and its co-founder Kevin Padrick sued Crystal Cox for maintaining several blogs that accused Obsidian and Padrick of corrupt and fraudulent conduct. The court dismissed most of Cox's blog posts as opinion, but found one single post to be more factual in its assertions and therefore defamatory. For that post, the court awarded the plaintiffs $2.5 million in damages. This case is notable for the court's ruling that Cox, as an internet blogger, was not a journalist and was thus not protected by Oregon's media shield laws although the court later clarified that its ruling did not categorically exclude blogs from being considered media and indicated that its decision was based in part upon Cox offering to remove negative posts for a $2,500 fee.