Submitted by Lee Batdorff on Mon, 03/05/2007 - 14:12.
From Bill Cohen-Kiraly on Cleveland Web SIG Yahoo Group - I don't know anything about the case in question but find the question this columnist raises about who is a journalist and who is not intriging and worrisome. In an age when publishing, and through podcasts now, broadcasting, are increasingly in the hands of the people and the amateurs, who should be covered under some of the special privileges we give to journalists?
If someone is both an activist and a blogger, can he or she protect themselves from the
consequences of illegal actions, or knowledge of someone else's
illegal actions, because he or she is a "journalist"? Do we want the
government and courts defining who is a journalist and who is not? I
guess if we have special priveldges for journalists, then we have to
draw a line somewhere but I am not sure where that line is.
I would have to say that, if Saunders facts are right as stated
below, and someone has a video tape of a public riot in which a cop
was attacked, they would in my mind, have both a legal and ethical
responsibility to turn that tape over so the thugs who comitted that
act can be jailed. Certainly any responsible newspaper or tv
(Disclosure: I was a newspaper journalist for about 10 years before
getting into dtp and web development so these questions hit close to
Bill Cohen-Kiraly posted his comment above and the copy below at Cleveland WebSIG Yahoo Group found here.
Josh Wolf - Blogger - Hase No Press Pass
By Debra J. Saunders | http://www.JewishWorldReview.com |
Josh Wolf, the blogger who has
spent some six months in prison for refusing to hand over a video he
took of a violent July 8, 2005, protest in the Mission District of
San Francisco to a federal grand jury, is not a journalist.
He is a blogger with an agenda and a camera, who sold a "selected
portion" of the video of the demonstration, which left a San
Francisco police officer with a fractured skull, to KRON-TV. The day
after the melee, Wolf called himself on his videoblog an "artist, an
activist, an anarchist and an archivist." He does not work for a news
organization. He does not answer to editors who fact-check. I do not
understand why newspapers — including The San Francisco Chronicle —
refer to him as the "longest-imprisoned journalist" in America.
San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno, who has spoken at Wolf
fundraisers, told me, "I think he, and those who are doing similar
kind of work, is in the process of redefining what a journalist is
relative to 21st century technology." In this brave new world, no
definition is sacred any more. But a camera and a Website do not a
journalist make, any more than shooting a criminal makes a vigilante
Wolf likes to put himself in the company of real journalists, such as
The Chronicle's Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who risked
going to jail in order to protect their confidential source in the
BALCO story. But unlike Fainaru-Wada and Williams, Wolf had no
confidential source agreement. He was filming public protests — those
protesters had no expectation of privacy.
Because he can't hide behind a confidential source agreement, Wolf
has had to get creative. So, in a friend-of-the-court brief, the ACLU
warned that if Wolf is viewed by anarchists and antiwar groups "as
cooperating with the government, he will no longer be able to perform
his vital role of covering these groups."
Wolf's actions, however, make a mockery of the ACLU argument. Wolf
offered to show the outtakes of his video to a federal judge, just to
prove that the video does not depict the police attacks in question.
The judge refused.
I do not support the feds' action of putting Wolf in prison for some
six months while they seem to be fishing for evidence. As Leno
noted, "I think it's important for people to realize that this man
has been held in federal prison, he has never been charged with a
crime and never been convicted of a crime, and they are treating him
like a very dangerous criminal."
Readers, therefore, should ask whether jailing Wolf for months is
worth the cost to the taxpayers. He attacked no one. It is not even
clear that his video implicates anyone — or that investigators could
not use some other footage to find out who attacked two city cops and
damaged their patrol car. Then there's the question as to whether the
U.S. attorney even has jurisdiction here, even if the SFPD does
receive federal funds.
Peter Shields, the San Francisco cop who was out of work for a year
after his skull was fractured in the incident, has little problem
with Wolf's incarceration. Shields also is none too happy that the
San Francisco supervisors "immediately" mobilized to show support for
Wolf's cause. "Why couldn't they do that to find who hit me?" Shields
asked over coffee Monday morning.
Shields took Spanish classes so that he could better serve the
diverse Mission District where he is stationed. He was furious to see
the activists, who say they support the poor, trashing a vibrant,
diverse working-class neighborhood during the protest. When he
arrived on the scene, he said, "they were destroying property. They
were endangering lives."
What if he were attacked not because he is a cop, but because he is a
gay man? Shields, who is gay, said people here would be "furious." He
added, "If this chaos happened in the Castro, there would not be this
hoopla, if you will, around the Josh Wolf videotape." But there is no
public outrage, he added, "just because I put on a uniform."
Alas, in the Special City, attacking a gay man is a hate crime, while
attacking a gay cop can be a cause celebre.