The public’s right to know meets the public’s right to inform

The public’s right to know meets the public’s right to inform

: Glenn Reynolds is right: This is a stirring defense of citizens’ journalism:

Whether one has journalistic protections should depend less on job title and more on function. Anyone, like Mr. Ciarelli, who gathers news on a subject of public interest and disseminates it to a waiting audience is entitled to the protection of a journalist. ThinkSecret has 2.5 million to 5 million page views a month.

A few years ago, there was an absurd debate about whether online reporters should have the same status as print reporters. The argument about bloggers will seem as frivolous – and irrelevant – in a few years.

Already, bloggers have played a key role in a number of important news stories, including Sen. Trent Lott’s racist remarks at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s birthday, CBS’s flawed report on the president’s military record and Eason Jordan’s resignation as a CNN vice president for briefly suggesting U.S. soldiers might have targeted journalists.

The democratization of the news media through the blogosphere is the inevitable product of technological development. The principle of the public’s right to know doesn’t depend on who is gathering the news. The American people are entitled to read and hear all of the information that enterprising newshounds, including bloggers, legally can pry from the clutches of corporate and government officials.

I’ve been saying lately that what’s interesting about media today is the content consumption has crossed with content creation (the iPod playlist you create to listen is the radio station you’ve created to broadcast).

This principle must be reflected in the law:

The public’s right to know meets the public’s right to inform.

  • Vincent

    I am from Mississippi and i was gonna take you to task for calling Sen Lott’s comments racist,but i looked them up to see for myself .You were right if they were not meant to be racist they sure sounded like it.

  • This principle must be reflected in the law:
    The public’s right to know meets the public’s right to inform.

    But seriously, are there no limits?
    For instance, if a blogger/journalist (pick one or both) were to disclose that a surprise attack was being planned against Iran, and published the documents to prove it, would that be covered by the public’s right to know?
    What if the documents included an estimate of thousands of US casualties, and long-term occupation costs estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars — but that the disclosure of the surprise attack would not discourage an attack itself, simply result in significantly more casualties? Does the public have a right to know about the costs involved in “secret military plans”?
    ***********************
    This isn’t a “right to know” issue — the public has no “right to know” what Apple is planning to release prior to its decision to inform the public of its intentions.
    To me, the issue in the Apple case that was recently ruled on was far more discreet — do corporations have the absolute right to orchestrate the propaganda/advertising about its products? Does the public have a right to know about a products features/defects from impartial observers before they are subjected to an onslaught of paid favorable publicity of a product.
    And, in this specific case, I’m most concerned with the fact that the judge has allowed the privacy of the bloggers to be invaded based upon the assumption that a crime has been committed without there ever being a trial in guilt has been established.

  • Paul,
    It’s not a ‘right to know’ issue so much as it is a ‘right to inform’ issue.
    If someone in MSM were to print something like your hypothetical Iran scenario, should that person be prosecuted (I would say yes)? If a blogger did the same, they should be treated the same as the media would be treated. We both have should have the same ‘right to inform’.
    And we should both suffer consequences if we violate national security. Similar for the Apple thing (if any laws were broken). If the MSM could do it without being penalized, bloggers should be able to do the same. Otherwise not.

  • And we should both suffer consequences if we violate national security. Similar for the Apple thing (if any laws were broken). If the MSM could do it without being penalized, bloggers should be able to do the same. Otherwise not.
    Kathe…I agree with that. The problem however is that the Apple case makes no distinction between bloggers and journalists — and its not a national security issue.
    Indeed, IMHO, its not even primarily a first amendment issue at this point, but a fourth amendment issue. The courts are violating the right of the bloggers “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” because of a civil suit devoid of any real legal process to determine that a crime has been committed, let alone a hearing determining that there is probably cause to suspect that the bloggers are guilty of that crime.

  • Woudn’t ‘real’ journalists go to jail rather than reveal their sources? Are our bloggers packing their jammies?