If, like me, you are a citizen journalist or at least somebody struggling to make their way in journalism as a citizen then how can you protect yourself and the growing group you are part of?
Six months and counting…
Blogger Josh Wolf has been in prison for more than six months in San Francisco for contempt of court. He shot a video of a San Francisco demonstration against a Group of Eight summit meeting in Scotland in July 2005. During the disturbances a policeman was injured and a police car attacked. Federal prosecutors started to investigate the case and Wolf’s video was viewed as potential evidence.
He refused to hand over both the video and testify in any case, contending that his video showed only interviews with protesters, not evidence of any crime. Wolf contended that there was an ‘implied trust’ between him and his interviewees. He said, in an interview with PBS that “there was a trust established between people involved in the organization that I was covering and myself . . . that what I chose to release was what I chose to release, and that I wasn't an investigator for the state.”
During the case the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, referred to Wolf as an “alleged journalist”. U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan also described Wolf as “simply a person with a video camera who happened to record some public events.” If Wolf was a journalist than Californian state law (although not federal law) might afford him some protection. So, there are legalistic implications to the definition of Wolf’s status and there are wider implications too.
The first point to note is that Wolf actively sought out the ‘public event’ and even conducted interviews so he cannot in all honesty be categorized as a passer-by who happened to record the events. Conversely, a long and worthy history exists of footage and stories written and filmed by actual participants, whether accidental or not, of news-worthy events and submitting these stories to established news media. However, none of them were journalists although they did bring ‘news’ to the people and therefore would fit the criteria of Wolf’s defense attorney to be considered as such. In actual fact Wolf did not ‘bring the news to the people’, he played a part in its production and that is exactly what a journalist does.